"O L-RD, Who are my power and my strength and my refuge in the day of trouble, to You nations will come from the ends of the earth and say, 'Only lies have our fathers handed down to us, emptiness in which there is nothing of any avail! Can a man make gods for himself, and they are no gods? 'Therefore, behold I let them know; at this time I will let them know My power and My might, and they shall know that My Name is the L-RD".
Jeremiah 16:19-21

Question:

I have heard Christian missionaries claim that Jesus deliberately screened or veiled his divine nature on earth, so when he is asked a question by one of his disciples about the time of the end he can honestly answer, that no man, not even the Son knows the time of the end, only the Father.  Then, when he says elsewhere that he and the Father are One, he is speaking about his ontological identity with the Father.  Please comment on this and post it on your web site.

Thank you.

Answer:

If the one God of the universe, Creator of the heavens and the earth, wanted to convey to His people that He alone was God and there was no other who shared this unique distinction with Him, what words would He use so that there would be no possibility for error? What phrase could He have selected so that there would be no chance of misunderstanding?  If you or I wanted to describe the unique oneness of God in a way that could not be misinterpreted, how would we express this?  Would we not have used the words that Moses reported God to have said in Deuteronomy 32:39,

See now that I myself am He!  There is no god besides Me . . . .

As a result of this and many other inspiring affirmations throughout the Jewish scriptures,1 faithful Jews to this day will only worship the One life-giving God of Israel — alone.

No prophet in Tanach ever remained silent on this foundational teaching.  As if with one voice, they pleaded with their often-wayward nation never to compromise their faith for anything other than the unwavering monotheism that they tirelessly preached.  Over and over again, the Hebrew Bible declared with deliberate clarity in its most celebrated creeds that the Almighty alone is God, and there is no other.  Nothing was ever “screened,” nothing was ever “veiled.”  It could not be, because the very survival of the Jewish people depended on it.  The Torah intimately connects the faith in one indivisible God with the national experience of the Jewish people throughout their long history.  Dreadful suffering was the consequence for any defection from the uncompromising monotheism that the Almighty demanded of His people.

Throughout the Jewish scriptures, God never “screened or veiled his divine nature.”  In fact, Isaiah unequivocally proclaimed that the Almighty did not reveal Himself in darkness or in a hidden or veiled fashion.  In Isaiah 45:19 the prophet, speaking in the Almighty’s name, declares that,

I have not spoken in secret, from somewhere in a land of darkness; I have not said to Jacob’s descendants, “Seek Me in vain.”  I, the Lord, speak the truth; I declare what is right.

Although the belief in the unity of God is taught and declared on virtually every page of the Jewish scriptures, the doctrine of the Trinity is never mentioned anywhere throughout the entire corpus of the Hebrew Bible.  This is understandable when we consider that primitive Christianity, in its earliest stages, was still monotheistic.  The authors of the New Testament were completely unaware that the church they had fashioned would eventually embrace a pagan deification of a triune deity.  Although the worship of a three-part godhead was well known and fervently venerated throughout the Roman Empire and beyond in religious systems such as Hinduism and Mithraism, it was quite distant from the heretical Judaism out of which Christianity emerged.  However, when the Greek and Roman rather than the Hebrew began to dominate the church, it created a theological disaster from which Christendom has never recovered.  By the end of the fourth century, the doctrine of the Trinity was firmly in place as a central tenet of the church, and strict monotheism was formally rejected by Vatican councils in Nicea and Constantinople.2

This absorption of a triune godhead into Christianity created serious problems for post-Nicene Christian apologists.  How would they harmonize this new veneration of Jesus as a being who is of the same substance as the Father with a New Testament that portrays Jesus as a separate entity, subordinate to the Father, and created by God?  How would they now integrate the teaching of the Trinity with a New Testament that recognized the Father alone as God?  In essence, how would Christian apologists merge a first and second century Christian Bible which was monotheistic with a much later church which was not?

This task was particularly difficult because throughout the Gospels and Paul’s letters Jesus never claims to be God.  On the contrary, the Jesus of the New Testament makes it crystal clear that he is not God, but rather an agent of God.  For example, in John 14:28, the author of the fourth Gospel has Jesus declare,

I go unto the Father, for my Father is greater than I.

The example you mentioned illustrates this particularly well.  In the thirteenth chapter of the Book of Mark, Jesus is asked by four of his disciples when the Tribulation period will occur.  In 13:32 Jesus responds,

But of that day and that hour knows no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the son, but the Father.

The problems this verse creates for Trinitarians are staggering.  If Jesus were coequal with the Father, how could the Father have information that Jesus lacked?  That is to say, if Jesus were God manifested in the flesh, as missionaries contend, how can God not know something?  If somehow the second Person of the godhead didn’t know, how did the first Person find out?  Moreover, if, as some Trinitarians persist, the son was limited by his human nature, why didn’t the Holy Spirit know?

Christians cannot simply explain away this verse by insisting that it was Jesus’ human or humble nature that did not know.  This is because the doctrine of the Trinity does not hold that Jesus was half God and half man.  Rather, Jesus was one hundred percent God and one hundred percent man.  His substance as God was not diminished because of his human nature.  As the ecclesiastical Athanasian Creed explicitly states,

The divinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is one, their glory equal, their majesty coeternal.  What quality the Father has, the Son has, and the Holy Spirit has.

Few statements defining the nature of the triune godhead have so plainly spelled out the nature of the doctrine of the Trinity as does this durable fourth century creed.

Some missionaries will argue, as you point out, that Jesus’ statement in John 10:30, “I and my Father are one,” demonstrates that Jesus considered himself God.  The Greek word hen (one), however, does not imply being a part of the same substance.  We see this clearly in John 17:11 and 17:21-22 where Jesus prays to God that the disciples may be one (hen) as are Jesus and God.  Clearly, Jesus is requesting that the disciples be of one unified purpose, not of the same substance or part of the Trinity.

Moreover, John 10:30-34 is particularly revealing.  The fourth Gospel describes how when the Jews heard Jesus proclaim, “I and my Father are one,” they immediately wanted to stone him.  When Jesus asks them why they wanted to kill him, the Jews responded because “you claim to be God.”  Upon hearing this, Jesus asked, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I have said you are gods’?”  This response is one of the most important statements in the Book of John, and should at least give Trinitarians pause.

The verse is found in Psalm 82:6 where the Bible refers to judges who teach God’s divine law as gods.  This title was bestowed on them because they were teachers of the Almighty’s divine law, not because they were actually God in any way.  This usage is quite common in the Jewish scriptures.  For example, in Exodus 7:1 Moses is called a god because he was God’s representative to Pharaoh.  In essence, Jesus’ reply supports the very opposite of what missionaries are trying to put forth.  Jesus, as depicted by John, is explaining that his identification with God is comparable to the Jewish judges’ identification with God.

The fact remains that no author in the New Testament ever advanced the doctrine of the Trinity.  It took many years from the time the last Gospel was completed for the defenders of the church to promote this alien creed.

Sincerely yours,

Rabbi Tovia Singer

Footnotes:

1Exodus 20:2-3 The first of the Ten Commandments I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, and of the land of slavery.  You shall have no other gods before Me.  (see also Deuteronomy 5:7)

Deuteronomy 4:11-12 You came near and stood at the foot of the mountain while it blazed with fire to the very heavens, with black clouds and deep darkness.  Then the Lord spoke to you out of the fire.  You heard the sound of words but saw no image; there was only a voice.

Deuteronomy 4:35 You are the ones who have been shown, so that you will know that God is the Supreme Being, and there is none other besides Him!

Deuteronomy 4:39 Know therefore today, and take it to your heart, that the Lord, He is God in heaven above and on the earth below; there is no other!

Deuteronomy 6:14 You shall not follow other gods, any of the gods of the peoples who surround you!

Deuteronomy 32:39 See, now, that I, I am He — and no god is with Me.

I Samuel 2:2 There is none holy as the Lord, for there is none beside Thee; neither is there any Rock like our God.

I Kings 8:27 For will God indeed dwell on the earth?  Behold the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain Thee, how much less this house that I have built?

I Kings 8:60 So that all the nations of the earth may know that the Lord is God and that there is no other!

II Kings 19:19 Now, O Lord our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all kingdoms on earth may know that You alone, O Lord, are God

Isaiah 40:18 To whom then will you liken God?  To what likeness will you compare unto Him?

Isaiah 40:25″To whom then will you liken Me, that I should be his equal?”  says the Holy One.

Isaiah 42:8 I am the Lord, that is My name, and My glory will I not give to another.  Neither My praise to graven images!

Isaiah 43:10-11 “You are My witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and My servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe Me and understand that I am He.  Before Me no god was formed, nor will there be one after Me.  I, even I, am the Lord, and besides Me there is no Savior.”

Isaiah 44:6-8 This is what the Lord says, Israel’s King and Redeemer, the Lord Almighty, “I am the first and I am the last; apart from Me there is no God!  Who then is like Me?  Let him proclaim it.  Let him declare and lay out before Me . . . .  Do not tremble, do not be afraid.  Did I not proclaim this and foretell it long ago?  You are My witnesses.  Is there any God besides Me?  No, there is no other Rock; I know not one.”

Isaiah 44:24 Thus said the Lord, your Redeemer, the One who formed you from the womb, “I am the Lord Who makes everything, Who stretched forth the heavens alone, Who spread out the earth by Myself.”

Isaiah 45:5-6 I am the Lord, and there is no other; besides Me there is no God; I will strengthen you . . . .  In order that they know from the shining of the sun and from the west that there is no one besides Me; I am the Lord and there is no other!

Isaiah 45:21-22. . . Who announced this from before, who declared it from the distant past?  Is it not I, the Lord, and there is no God apart from Me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none but Me.  Turn to Me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other!

Isaiah 46:5 To whom shall you liken Me and make Me equal and compare Me that we may be alike?

Isaiah 46:9 Remember the first things of old, that I am God and there is no other; I am God and there is none like Me.

Isaiah 48:11. . . My honor I will not give to another.

Hosea 13:4 I am the Lord your God, Who brought you out of Egypt.   You shall acknowledge no god but Me, no savior except Me!

Joel 2:27 You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and I am the Lord your God, there is no other; and My people shall never be ashamed.

Malachi 2:10 Have we not all one Father?  Has not one God created us?  Why should we betray, each one his brother, to profane the covenant of our forefathers?

Psalm 73:25 Whom have I in heaven but You?  Earth has nothing I desire besides You.

Psalm 81:8-9  Hear, O My people, and I will admonish you; O Israel, if you would listen to Me!  Let there be no strange god among you; nor shall you worship any foreign god.

Nehemiah 9:6  You alone are the Lord; You made the heavens, the heaven of the heavens and all their host, the earth and all that is upon it, the seas and all that is in them, and You give life to all, and the heavenly host bow down before You.

I Chronicles 17:20 O Lord, there is none like You, neither is there any god beside You, according to all that we have heard with our ears!

2The Councils of Nicea and Constantinople took place in 325 and 381 C.E., respectively.  At the Council of Nicea the nature of Jesus was determined to be of the same substance (homousios) as the Father, and at the Council of Constantinople this doctrine was ratified and the doctrine of the Trinity was expressly declared to be a foundational church teaching.  (See Question and Answer entitled “Isaiah 53: Did Jesus have long life?”)

 

 

 

 

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