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Table of Contents

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV

Part V

Part VI

Part VII


Part IX


Part V: The Trinity in the old Testament



1. The Lord as "the Word"

     It has been customary to assume that the concept of the Logos in the first chapter of John was inspired by Greek Philosophy, particularly by the adaptation of it to Judaic thought by the Jewish philosopher Philo. However, John's Gospel is much more Hebrew in character and in its thought patterns than for example Luke's Gospel, so that it would not be surprising to find John referring back for his symbols to a purely Hebrew tradition rather than a Greek one, as Luke might have done. Moreover, there is some evidence that this symbol of Jehovah is perhaps paralleled in the first chapter of John by two others. One of these is the "Shekinah" Presence (a symbol frequently appearing in the Targums), and the other is "Kabodh" Glory, which may both have been in John's mind in verse 14 where he says, "And the Word (memra) was made flesh, and dwelt among us (shekinah), and we beheld His glory (kabodh)." To his Jewish readers this might be a particularly significant statement.
     It would not do to make too much of this, however attractive the idea may seem. The Jewish people themselves made the mistake of giving so much freedom to their interpretative imaginings that the plainest words of Scripture often came to have fantastic meaning -- so much so, in fact, that their commentaries at times are almost unintelligible. The early Church Fathers not infrequently fell into the same trap. For this reason we have kept this comment out of the body of the Paper.

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2. The Lord as "the Promised Seed"

     This brief note, like Appendix 1 has been kept out of the body of the Paper, not only because it contains some highly speculative ideas, but also because it is in a way a separate subject, which would have required making a pronounced break in the thread of thought.
     In Genesis 3:15 the promise is given to Eve that One who should be her seed would finally undo the works of Satan. In the circumstances, it was very natural for Eve to suppose that this Promised Seed would appear at once and there is some evidence that she supposed this to have happened when her first child was born. This event is recorded in Genesis 4:1 and 2, and the Hebrew of the original is in some respects a little odd. Our text reads, "And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the L
ORD. And she again bare his brother Abel." Now in the original, Eve's statement, "I have gotten a man from the LORD," may be translated in several different ways. She may have said, "I have gotten a man with the LORD," i.e., with the help of the Lord perhaps. But she may also have said, "I have gotten a man, even the Lord." In any case, the word "LORD" is "Jehovah" in the Hebrew, a circumstance which we shall return to in a moment. The phrase "And she again bare his brother Abel" is also a little strange. It could possibly be rendered, "And she bare also (at the same time) his brother Abel." This would be a birth of twins. The only justification for this translation lies in the fact that the adverb "again" is a verb in the original which means essentially "to do at the same time," or "to repeat."
     In the New Testament Cain is said to have been born "of that wicked one" (1 John 3:12), a phrase which is exactly parallel to that in Matthew 1:20, where Jesus is said to have been conceived of the Holy Spirit. The Greek ek is used in both cases implying derivation in a special way, in the one case "out of" the Holy Spirit and in the other case "out of" the evil one. Is it possible that Satan was also mistakenly believing that the first child that Eve bore would somehow or other be a Great One and that in some supernatural way he tried to see to it that an anti-Christ appeared before Christ? If this admittedly speculative idea has any justification, then it seems not unlikely that with Cain exiled by God Himself from the company of his fellows, Satan might soon tempt other men to claim themselves to be the Promised Seed. Although there are other interpretations of Genesis 4:26, it is not impossible that the statement that at this time "began men to call upon the name of the L
ORD" should more properly be rendered "began men to call themselves by the name of Jehovah." The Hebrew allows this and it may be that notable

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individuals were tempted to make this claim for themselves openly for the first time.
     In Exodus 6:2 and 3 there is a passage the meaning of which has always been a subject of debate. In this passage, we read, "And God spake unto Moses, and said unto him, I am the L
ORD: And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name God Almighty, but by my name JEHOVAH was I not known to them." It has always seemed strange that the Lord who was about to redeem Israel should say that He had not been known by name to the patriarchs, who, as we have seen, met Him and talked with Him face to face. I should like to suggest this possibility: When Mary was told that she would bare a Son who was to be the Redeemer, she was also told what His name was to be, namely, Jehovah Saviour, shortened into the form, Jesus. It seems to me not unlikely that God might have told Eve also that when the Promised Seed came His name would be Jehovah. But -- and this is the point of importance here -- she was not told that Jehovah was God's name. Accordingly as the knowledge was passed from generation to generation, the tradition was well known that the name of the Promised Seed when He appeared would be Jehovah. But still no one knew that this was God's name. As I see it, God was here saying to Moses, "You know as others have known that when the Redeemer comes His name will be Jehovah: but now I am revealing to you that I, God Almighty, am that Jehovah." Or in very simple words, "I am that I am," the second "I am" being in a sense a translation of the word "Jehovah." Moses now knew that the Promised Seed was not a great mortal one, but was to be God Himself. This fact as we have seen was well understood by Isaiah (Isaiah 35:4).
     Whatever may be said for or against this suggestion, it is quite clear that when our Lord finally appeared, there were many who were true Israelites who had, simply by a contemplation of the Old Testament, come to understand very wonderfully that the Promised Seed was really God made man. To all such, the name of Jesus was full of meaning. And His true identity is going to be acknowledged one day by all men to the glory of the Father when every knee shall bow and confess that Jesus is Lord (Philippians 2:11).

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3. Jesus in the Old Testament: A Bibliography

      The following books have papers or sections devoted to this subject. There are undoubtedly hundreds of others, but these we are acquainted with personally and have found them of value.

     Robinson, W. Childs, "Jesus Christ is Jehovah," Evangelical Quarterly, vol.5, no.2 and 3, April and July, 1933. A most useful treatise.
     Rowell, J. B., "Jehovah Jesus," Sunday School Times, August 21, 28, and September 4, 1958.
     Edersheim, Alfred, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Longmans Green, New York, 1900, vol.1, pp. 43ff., and vol. 2, pp. 659-666, appendix 2. The appendix is most valuable and lists, among other things, all the passages in the Old Testament which the Jewish people traditionally considered as being a reference to the Messiah.
     Hislop, Alexander, The Two Babylons, Loizeaux Brothers, New York, 1916, xii and 330 pp., illustrated, index. A remarkable book bearing witness to the author's immense scholarship and showing how the original revelation of the nature and relationship of the Persons within the Godhead and the identity of the Promised Seed was corrupted in the ancient world.
     Stock, John, "The God-Man," in The Fundamentals, vol.2, Biola Press, Los Angeles, 1917, pp.261-281.
     Browne, E. Harold, An Exposition of the Thirty-nine Articles, Parker and Son, London, 1860, pp.13ff. on Article 1, "The Holy Trinity"; Article 2, "The Word, or Son of God Who Was Made Very Man," p.60; Article 5, "Of the Holy Ghost," pp.122ff. Browne's treatment of the nature of the Trinity and the identity of the Lord Jesus is full and very satisfying.
     Liddon, H. P., The Divinity of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Rivingtons, London, 1871, xxix and 549 pp. Rightly considered a classic.
     Cooper, David, The Eternal God Revealing Himself, Evangelical Press, Harrisburg, Pa., 1928, 362 pp., index. A valuable study of the Hebrew.

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4. Unitarianism and Psychology

     It is a matter of common experience that whenever we see two or three people who know us well talking together, we tend rather easily to suppose they are talking about us. For some reason, it does not surprise us very much (though it may confirm our suspicions!) if one of them says, "Oh, we were just talking about you."
     On the other hand, whenever an individual who has been sitting alone apparently immersed in deep thought, says to us, "Well, I was just thinking about you," we are apt to be surprised. That people in groups should talk about us seems somehow quite natural. But most of us feel insignificant enough that we hardly expect anyone to spend time thinking about us when they are alone. We get the feeling that we are the subject of conversation, but not the feeling that we are the subject of thought. Human nature being what it is, the first feeling tends to be one of apprehension. But setting this aside for the moment, the point I'm trying to make here is that we feel ourselves to be involved where several people are concerned much more readily than where only the one is concerned -- for a solitary person is almost antisocial. The very existence of several persons implies the willingness of those persons to share themselves with others.
     However we may explain it, apparently this rather characteristic tendency has had its repercussions in the realm of worship. In his Making of Religion (Longmans Green, 1909, p.255) Andrew Lang has pointed out that where God is believed to be a solitary Being, alone and supreme, occupied in contemplation, He has tended to be looked upon as One who is so far removed from the littlenesses of daily life that He ought not to be bothered with them. Accordingly, this lonely Supreme Being is often overlooked altogether, and worship, personal supplications, and sacrifices are directed towards lesser deities who are more human and therefore more "understanding."
     It is as though ordinary mortals dare not intrude into the private life or interrupt the thoughts of such a Supreme Being. It thus comes about, paradoxically, that this kind of absolute monotheism may lead to a gross polytheism. On the other hand, where the Godhead is plural, worshippers have tended to assume that the Persons within that Godhead have engaged in conversation among themselves and that the subject of the conversation is the worshippers. They have therefore felt much freer to intrude and address themselves to God. It would be a great mistake to suggest that the concept of the Trinity is a concession to human nature. It is much more likely that God has structured human nature so that worship and the fellowship of prayer comes more naturally to those who have believed the revelation He has given of Himself as three Persons in one God.

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5. Corruption of the Original Revelation in Ancient Traditions

     It used to be thought that monotheism arose by some kind of evolutionary process out of polytheism. The idea went something like this. At first, man attributed to other things feelings like his own. Rivers, storms, avalanches, and other such potential restrainers of man had wills similar to his own. In the course of time, further sophistication removed the soul out of such inanimate objects and attributed their apparent willfulness, at times, to disembodied wills which stood behind them and used them. Later on these wills were personified and eventually erected into a kind of hierarchy of spirit beings. Subsequently these spirit beings were no longer considered as analogous to human wills, but as something higher and superior, and of course, much more powerful. Thus what had been polydemonism became polytheism. Then along came the Hebrews who said that although there were these lesser supernatural beings (angels and demons), there was above them one Being, infinitely removed and vastly superior. This Potentate was at first likened to a "benevolent dictator," but in the end, so it was held, the prophets declared Him the Father of mankind. Such was the rationalized interpretation proposed by those who felt that evolution was the key here as it was in biology and cultural history, and who were quite sure that revelation was unnecessary.
     But as time went on, it became apparent that this hypothesis would not stand up. Reasonable though it seemed, the facts were against it: the earliest faith of mankind appears to have been a remarkably pure monotheism. It is not our purpose to examine the evidence for this here, since it is the subject of another Doorway Paper ("Primitive Monotheism and the Origin of Polytheism," Part II in Evolution or Creation? vol.4). What we should like to point out, however, is that the records of antiquity show a dual line of development in this matter. On the one hand, there is witness to this early purity of faith in the existence of a single Supreme Being whose relationship to man is perhaps best summed up by the title "Merciful Father"; and on the other hand, an explicit understanding of the nature of God as a Trinity of Persons. This belief in a Trinity is quite distinct from polytheism, though one might suppose the two would be inevitably confused. Furthermore, these traditions regarding the nature of the Trinity often reveal a very clear insight into the relationship between the Members of the Trinity, and even their names.
     For example, a rather common symbolic representation of the Trinity from the Middle East in the early historic period takes the form of the head and arms of an old man with a beard, set in an oval frame, the latter being supplied with wings, tail feathers, and bird's

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feet. A reproduction of such a symbol is shown in Fig. 12. (2) It was long ago pointed out that we may have in this symbol a remarkable recollection of the three Persons in the Godhead, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. It is clear enough, perhaps, that the old man is God the Father, and the wings, the legs, and the tail feathers are symbolic of the dove, i.e., the Holy Spirit. But where is God the Son?
     In Scripture the Son of God is known also as the Seed (Galatians 3:16; 1 John 3:9). The Hebrew word for "seed" is zera , a word which has come into English via the Arabs as "zero." This word is written as a symbol in the form "O." This symbol was given a number of mystical meanings, in its circular form (as opposed to oval) coming to stand for the perfect figure and for eternity -- the circle of time (perhaps giving rise to the Babylonian word "saros," a cycle). By devious ways, it was played with by the mystics and in the course of time came to be represented by an egg -- in fact, the Easter egg. There is considerable evidence that the word "Easter" is a corruption of a name familiar to students of antiquity as the woman "Ishtar." This woman was given the title "Queen of Heaven." The Seed of this woman, who in the Book of Revelation is Antichrist, became known as the "Seed of Ishtar," or translated into its Semitic form, Zera Ishtar, a corrupted form of which is probably found in the name Zoroaster. Returning to the symbol illustrated, it will be seen that the circle is indeed a circle, and not a disk, i.e., a ring and not a plate, and is almost certainly intended to signify the presence of God the Son.
     There are many authorities today who have little or no sympathy for this kind of interpretation. However, in Figs.12B and 12C. I have given other similar symbolic representations found by Layard in his excavations in the Middle East which differ significantly, yet which are clearly related. Fig.12B shows the wings and tail feathers of the dove and what is rather clearly an egg in the center. In this illustration, however, the figure of the old man has been replaced by a simple geometric form, the meaning of which is not clear. In Fig.12C the details are even more remarkable. In the first place, it is manifest that the circle is a circle and not a solid figure because the feathers of the wings are continued in toward the centre. What is more remarkable, however, is that the threefold nature of the Godhead is reinforced by the incorporation of two small heads arising from the wings, in addition to the central figure, making a total of three.

2. These three figures are redrawn from Austen H. Layard, Discoveries in the Ruins of Nineveh and Babylon, John Murray, London, 1853, pp.605ff.


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     It has sometimes been said that the universe is so full of triads that man has always tended to group things in threes everywhere. Thus there are three primary colors, three dimensions, three temporal divisions -- past, present, and future, three kingdoms -- mineral, vegetable, and animal, three relationships -- I, thou, they; three states -- solid, liquid, gas; and so on, almost indefinitely. It has been customary, therefore, to argue that because the concept of absolute unity is a highly sophisticated one, there was a tendency to make trinities out of the gods wherever there were gods to be reckoned with. Trinities exist, therefore, as a natural consequence of man's reflection about the universe -- so we are told -- and not because of an original revelation. The persistence of trinities in so many widely separated parts of the world seems to me to indicate that the initial revelation was at the beginning given very explicitly

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and was clearly understood by those who received it. Wallis Budge listed some of the Babylonian trinities such as: (3)

 Anu  Anat  Rimmon
 Ea  Damkina  Samas
 Bel  Beltis  Sin

     Sir J. W. Dawson listed some of the ancient Egyptian trinities, of which the most famous was: (4)

 Osiris  Isis  Horus

     Charles F. Keary gave some of the trinities which appear in Europe (5) as, for example

 among the Romans:  Ceres  Libera  Liber
 of the Teutons:  Frigg  Freyja  Freyr
 and in Greece:  Demeter  Persephone  Dionysus

     There is even an ancient Chinese trinity which obviously cannot have had any connection with Christianity. The Chinese philosopher, Lao-tse, who flourished according to Chinese chronology about the sixth or seventh century B.C., made this statement, (6)

     The one that you are looking for and you do not see, calls himself J. The one that you listen for, and that you do not hear, calls himself Hi. The one that your hand seeks, and that it is not able to grasp, calls himself Wei. They are three beings which one cannot understand, and which compounded together make only one.

      It would be a mistake, I think, to suggest that there is any connection between the three letters, J, H, and W, and the Hebrew name of God, Jehovah. But the concept of a trinity as such is clearly very ancient and remarkably widespread.
    The trinity is also found very early in India. In one of the most ancient cave temples at Elephanta,
(7) there is a representation of God in the form of a figure of one body with three heads, attached to which is an inscription which reads, "Eko Deva trimurtti," which is

3. Budge, E. A. W., Babylonian Life and History, Religious Tract Society, London, 1897, p.189.
4. Dawson, Sir J. W., Egypt and Syria, Religious Tract Society, London, 1892, p.189.
5. Keary, Charles F., Outlines of Primitive Belief Among the Indo-European Races, Scribners, New York, 1882, p.218.
6. Howard, John E., "The Druids and Their Religion," Transactions of the Victorian Institute, vol.14, 1881, p.l28.
7. Hislop, Alexander, The Two Babylons, Partridge, London, 1903, p.18.

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translated as "One God, three forms." In this inscription Eko means "one" and trimurtti means "three forms." The word for God is Deva, a word related to the English "divine." And this brings us to a further point which seems to show that the original revelation of the nature of God was shared by many people.
     Deva, a generic name for God in India, is commonly derived from the Sanskrit, div, which means "to shine." But there may be another derivation for the word, which must ultimately be traced back to the Chaldee word for "good." The Hebrew word for "good" is pronounced toth or toy, a form which in Chaldee is found as thev. This adjective becomes essentially a noun when it is given its emphatic form theva, which then means "The Good." This is the culmination of the Old Testament revelation, God is Good; as the culmination of the New Testament revelation is, God is Love. When Jesus said, "Why callest thou me good? There is none good but God only," I think He was referring back to this fact. God may well, therefore, have been known from Hebrew influences as the Good One, theva, a word which found its way as His title throughout the Indo-European world. In India it became Deva, in Latin Deus, in Greek Theos, in French Dieu, in old high German Zieu and in Anglo-Saxon Tieu. As we have noted, the word "divine" in English has the same source. It seems just possible that the Chinese Ti and Tien are related forms. The Sanskrit elaborated the word and linked it with the term "Father," whence it appears as Djouspitar, a form which seems clearly to be reflected in the Roman name, Jupiter.
     In the light of all this, it is not strange that etymological dictionaries should derive the word "God" from the word "good," a point illustrated, for example, by the contraction of "good-spel" to "God-spel," and then to "gospel." This phenomenon, the borrowing by other nations of a Hebrew word for God, is found in other directions also. Thus the Hebrew word Adonai (My Lord) seems to have spread far and wide appearing in Egypt as "Aten" or "Aton" (in the name Atknaton, for instance), in Syria as "Aton," in Greek in a feminine form "Athena," in Italy (probably via the Etruscans) as Madonna, meaning "My Lady," in Norse as "Odin," and possibly in Saxon as "Wodin."
     We have previously mentioned that the merciful side of God's nature was revealed to Israel and became a treasured part of Revelation. The Hebrew root of the word "merciful," is raham, and this word seems to have appeared in a number of forms in other parts of the ancient world. There is good reason to believe that the Indian word brahm is a modification of the original Hebrew, since brahm is closely 

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associated with the womb and in Hebrew thought the womb was the seat of compassion. This is analogous to the use of the word "bowels" in the New Testament. The Turks apply the title Er-Rahman to the Most High. Although I can find no authority for this, it seems to me quite likely that the Egyptian Rha is the same word, as also the Greek Rhea.
     I'm quite sure that a scholar with a knowledge of the mythology of these peoples could sort out for us which of these speculations is justified and which is not. It is remarkable how many such connecting links there are of this kind in antiquity. Thus, for example, the symbol of the Holy Spirit in Scripture is the dove, for which the Hebrew word is "Jonah." It seems almost certain that the Juno of the Greeks and Romans who was always represented as associated with a dove was none other than the Holy Spirit, though subsequently grossly misinterpreted and misunderstood. If one is allowed to make the further assumption that the Jove of Classical Antiquity was a corruption of Jehovah, the following short poem, one of the Orphic Hymns, indicates how much of the original truth was "held in unrighteousness" (cf. Romans 1:18).

O Royal Juno, of majestic mien,
Aerial formed, divine, Jove's blessed queen,
Throned in the bosom of celestial air,
The race of mortals is thy constant care.
The cooling winds, thy power alone inspire,
Which nourish life, which ever life desires.
Mother of showers, and winds, from thee alone
Producing all things, mortal life is known.
All natures show thy temperament divine,
And universal sway alone is thine
With sounding blasts of wind, and swelling sea,
And rolling rivers, roar when shaken by thee.

     Allowing for all the confusion of thought, Juno, consort of Jehovah, is the Divine Being associated with the winds, comforter, guide and sustainer of life, and creator of the divine temperament in man.
     The use of a triangle as the symbol for God, in antiquity, might be considered as falling in the same category. The subsequent superimposing of two triangles one over the other, as used by the Jewish people, is believed by some to have originated from the concept of three Persons in the Godhead, who bore a covenant relationship with the three great patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This is the so-called Star of David.
     I do not think it without significance that Paul wrote of the Romans that they among other nations in the pagan world "held the 

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truth in unrighteousness" (cf. Romans 1:18). It is easy to direct one's attention to the words "in unrighteousness" and to overlook the admission that they did hold "the truth." In fact, in the Greek the word "hold" is a little more meaningful than the English translation. It is a compound word and has the meaning of "to conceal" (Liddell and Scott). As we have seen, the ancient pagan world retained something of the original nature of the Godhead by the names by which they remembered the persons who composed their pantheons. These names did not necessarily have any specific meaning to them, but if we trace them back to that area of the Middle East from which they originally came, we find them changing slightly until they are suddenly recognized in the Old Testament.

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Copyright © 1988 Evelyn White. All rights reserved

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