Hebrews 1:8 refers to Jesus as “God.” Does this prove that He is God?

This is the second article in response to an article on the Trinity by the Gotquestions website.  The first article discussed the logical contradiction in the Trinity concept.  The current article responds to Gotquestions’ argument that “GOD THE SON IS DISTINGUISHED FROM GOD THE FATHER” and refers to Psalm 45:6-7 and Hebrews 1:8-9 for support.

The point is that Hebrews 1:8 refers to Jesus as “God.”  But does this prove that He is God?  Hebrews 1:8-9 is a quote from Psalm 45.  I will, therefore, discuss Psalm 45 first.  After that, I discuss the first part of Hebrews 1, and conclude with verses 8 and 9.

But before I discuss Psalm 45, note that GotQuestions refers to “God the Son” and also to “God the Father.” We DO find the title “God the Father” in the Bible; about 20 times, but the title “God the Son” IS NEVER FOUND IN THE BIBLE.  The phrase “God the Son” is the product of the Trinity doctrine and does not come from the Bible.

All bold, underlining, UPPERCASE, font sizes and italics in this article were added by myself.  Bible quotes are mostly from the NASB.

Psalm 45

Let us now discuss Psalm 45.  Verses 1 and 2 read:

1 … I address my verses TO THE KING
2 … GOD HAS BLESSED YOU forever

This, therefore, makes a distinction between God and the king of Israel.  But verses 6 to 9 continue and refer to the king of Israel as God.  Addressing the king, it says:

6 YOUR THRONE, O GOD, IS FOREVER AND EVER;
A scepter of uprightness is the scepter of Your kingdom.

7 You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
Therefore GOD, YOUR GOD, HAS ANOINTED You

9 Kings’ daughters are among Your noble ladies;
At Your right hand stands the queen.

This identifies the king of Israel as God.  This is confirmed by verse 9, which mentions the king’s wives.  But it also says, “GOD, YOUR GOD, has anointed You.”  In other words, the king of Israel is called God, but God is also his God.

Elohim

All four instances of the word “God” in the quote from the psalm are translated from the Hebrew word elohim, which Strongs defines as “God,” with a capital “G,” or “god,” with a small “g.”  The NASB translates elohim mostly as “God,” with a capital “G,” but also about 250 times with a small “g” “god” or “gods.

The word elohim is discussed in a separate article.  Another place where we see a human being described as “god” or elohim—literally “gods”—is in Exodus 7:1, where “The LORD said unto Moses, See, I have made you a god [that is elohim] to Pharaoh.

The king is a normal human being.  Why is he called elohim?  We will respond to that question below, after we have discussed Hebrews 1.

Why is elohim translated as “God?”

But before we turn to Hebrews, there is a second matter in Psalm 45 that requires our attention.  That is the question, why did the translators of the NASB translate the word “King” in verse 1 with a capital “K?”  And why did they translate elohim, when it refers to the king, as “God” with a capital “G?” Why did they not translate elohim with a small “god,” as they did in the case of Moses, and as they do for all beings that are not God, but who are referred to as elohim?

It is not because of anything in the psalm itself, for there is nothing in the psalm that goes beyond a normal human king.  The translators capitalized these words for two reasons:

Firstly, they know that Hebrews 1 refers to Psalm 45 and interprets the king in this psalm as a type of (a symbol of) Christ.

Secondly, the translators are Trinitarians, and therefore believe that Jesus is God.

What we must realize is that, to translate elohim when it refers to the king of Israel, as “God” with a big “G,” rather than with a small “g,” is an application of the Trinity doctrine.

With this background, we can now discuss Hebrews 1:

Hebrews 1

A primary purpose of Hebrews is to exalt Jesus.  The letter, for example, commences by saying:

    • That God appointed His Son as “heir of all things” (1:2).
    • That, through the Son, God, “made the world” (1:2).
    • That the Son “is … the exact representation of God’s nature” (1:3).
    • That the Son “upholds all things by the word of His power” (1:3), and
    • That the Son “sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (1:3).

Distinct From God

Note that “God” in verse 1 is identified as “the Majesty on high” in verse 3.

We discussed above how Gotquestions refers to “God the Son,” but these first verses of Hebrews make an explicit distinction between “God” and “His Son. If the Son is distinct from God, then the Son is not God, if we use the word “God” in the way that the New Testament uses it.

From verse 4 onwards, Hebrews explains that the Son is “much better than the angels.”  If the Son was God, as the Trinity doctrine requires, then there WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN ANY NEED to argue that the Son is better than the angels.  Then the writer of Hebrews could simply have said that the Son is God.  See Jesus is not God for a further discussion of these principles.

Subordinate to God

We must also appreciate that these verses identify the Son as subordinate to God, for example:

    • God is the original Owner, because He “appointed” His Son as the heir of all things (1:2).
    • God is the Creator, for He made the world “through” the Son (1:2).
    • God is the true glory, for the Son is the radiance of His glory (1:3).
    • God is the ultimate Ruler, for the Son sits on His “right hand.”

The fundamental concept in the Trinity doctrine is that the Son is co-equal with the Father.  The entire remainder of the Trinity concept has been developed to reconcile this conclusion with the Bible.  If it is then found that the Son is subordinate to God, then the entire Trinity doctrine collapses.  For a further discussion, see, God is the Head of Christ.

Today I have begotten You

In verse 5, Hebrews 1 quotes from Psalm 2, saying “you are my son, today I have begotten you.”  In Psalm 2, these words refer to the king of Israel.  Hebrews, therefore, interprets the king of Psalm 2 to be a type of the Son. Hebrews quotes the Old Testament very frequently, for it was specifically addressed to the Hebrew Christians.

Worship the Son.

Hebrews continues and says that GOD COMMANDED ALL ANGELS TO WORSHIP THE SON (1:6).  If Jesus is worshiped, DOES THAT NOT MEAN THAT HE IS GOD?  Hebrews 1:6 is similar to Philippians 2:9-10, where we read,

God highly exalted Him (that is, Jesus),
and bestowed on Him the name which is above EVERY NAME,
so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW …
and that every tongue will confess
THAT JESUS CHRIST IS LORD,
TO THE GLORY OF GOD THE FATHER.

God commanded His worship.

The question then is, if Jesus is not God, WHY IS HE WORSHIPED?  To respond to this question, notice the following:

FIRSTLY, both Hebrews 1:6 and Philippians 2 make an explicit distinction between God and Jesus.  Philippians 2, for example, says that “God exalted Him.”  Furthermore, “every tongue will confess THAT JESUS CHRIST IS LORD.”  In other words; they will not confess Jesus as God.

SECONDLY, in both, IT IS GOD WHO CAUSES ALL BEINGS TO WORSHIP JESUS.  If Jesus was God, then THERE WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN ANY NEED for God to COMMAND His creatures to worship Him.

Proskuneó

THIRDLY, the Greek word that is translated “worship” (that is the word proskuneó) has a much wider meaning than the English word “worship.”  “Worship” implies that the one worshiped is God, but humans also proskuneó one anotherProskuneó simply means to show honor.  It literally means “to kiss the ground when prostrating before a superior.”  For example, the three wise men came looking for the “King of the Jews” (Mt. 2:2).  When they found Him, “they fell to the ground and proskuneó Him” (v11); not because He is God, for they did not think of Him as God, but because He is “born King of the Jews.”

FOURTHLY, in Philippians 2, Jesus is worshiped “TO THE GLORY OF GOD THE FATHER.”  He is not worshiped independently from God, but “to the glory of God.”  To glorify the Son is to glorify the Father.  We worship the Father through the Son.

But why do we worship Jesus?

Why do we worship the Son with the Father?  The reason is that WE CANNOT REALLY SEPARATE THE SON FROM GOD.  I like Tertullian’s metaphor.  For him, the Father is like the sun in the sky, and His Son is like the rays streaming from the sun.  God created all things through His Only Begotten Son and He still “upholds all things by the word of His (that is, His Son’s) power” (Heb. 1:1-3; cf. John 1:1-3; Col 1:15-17).  “In Him (that is, in Jesus) all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form” (Col. 2:9).  We therefore worship the Son, not only because God commanded us to, but because of who He is.  For a further discussion, see Jesus is worshiped.

Only Begotten Son of God

When people hear that Jesus is the Son of God, they think of human sons, who are in all respects equal to their fathers.  But the Bible does not teach that the Son is equal to God.  He is called the SON of God to reveal to us that He has a very unique relationship with God AS FAR AS HIS ORIGIN IS CONCERNED.  He is His “only begotten Son,” who, before His birth as a human being, existed “in the form of God” (Phil. 2:5).  To describe Jesus as the “only begotten Son” attempts to explain something in human language which human minds cannot comprehend.  He was not begotten as humans are.  We should not give our own interpretation of this symbolic language. We should allow the Bible to interpret it for us.  For a further discussion, see Only Begotten Son of God.

Hebrews 1:8

Then, after describing the angels as “winds, and … a flame of fire,” we come to the verses that are the particular focus of the current article, namely verses 8 and 9.  I read:

8 But of the Son He says,
“YOUR THRONE, O GOD, IS FOREVER AND EVER,
AND THE RIGHTEOUS SCEPTER IS THE SCEPTER OF HIS KINGDOM. 9 “YOU HAVE LOVED RIGHTEOUSNESS AND HATED LAWLESSNESS; THEREFORE GOD, YOUR GOD, HAS ANOINTED YOU …”

This is a fairly exact quote from Psalm 45:6-7.  The author of Hebrews interprets the king of Israel in Psalm 45 as a type of Jesus.  The writer described Jesus as “God” in verse 8 because Psalm 45 refers to the king of Israel as “God.”  We now need to explain why the king of Israel, and consequently, the Son of God, are described as God.

“God” and the Greek word theos

The word “God” in Hebrews 1:8 is translated from the Greek word theos.  Theos, similar to the Hebrew word elohim, can be translated as “god” either with a capital “G” or with a lower “g.” It depends on who it refers to.  This requires further clarification.

THERE IS NO WORD IN THE ORIGINAL GREEK TEXT THAT IS EXACTLY EQUAL TO OUR WORD “GOD.”  In modern English, we use the word “God,” with a capital “G,” to identify one specific Being; namely, the Uncaused Cause of all things.  The word “God,” with a capital “G,” functions in English as A PROPER NAME FOR THE SUPREME BEING.

The ancient languages did not have the modern differentiation between lower and upper case letters.  They only had words (such as theos and elohim) that are equivalent to our word “god” with a lower “g.” The word “god,” with a lower “g,” does not identify any specific being, but A CATEGORY OF BEINGS.  That group of beings includes the God of the Bible, but also includes other beings.  For example, Satan is also called theos, namely “the god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4).

Therefore, to translate theos as “God” with a capital “G” or as “god” with a lower “g” depends on the translator’s interpretation, and since translators generally are Trinitarians, they translate the instances where the title theos is applied to Jesus, as “God” with a capital “G.”  But if one does not assume the Trinity theory, the reference to Jesus as theos in Hebrews 1:8 may also be translated as “god,” with a lower “g.”

It is a form of collective circular reasoning: First, the Trinitarian translator adds a capital “G.” Then the readers exclaim, SEE, it says “God!  Therefore Jesus is God!”  For a further discussion, see – The Meanings of the Word THEOS.

God Jesus has a God.

In conclusion, the fact that Hebrews 1:8 identifies Jesus as God does not prove that He is God.  The next verse actually proves that He is not God, for it says to Jesus, “GOD, YOUR GOD, HAS ANOINTED YOU” (Heb. 1:9).  In other words, Jesus has a God over Him.  This makes one think of John 20.  That chapter similarly refers to Jesus as “God,” but in the same chapter Jesus refers to God as His God (compare verses 17 and 28). See – Did Thomas call Jesus “my God” in John 20:28?

Summary

Hebrews 1:8 refers to Jesus as “God.”  Does this prove that Jesus is God?

The first verses of Hebrews 1, in a number of ways, make an explicit DISTINCTION BETWEEN JESUS AND GOD, and, contrary to the Trinity doctrine, represent Jesus as SUBORDINATE TO GOD.  According to verse 6, God commanded all angels to worship the Son.  This again shows that the Son is subordinate to the Father.  But we do not worship the Son only because God commanded us to.  We worship Him because of who He is, for God created all things through Him and still upholds all this through the word of His Son’s power.

Jesus is called theos (that is, god) in Hebrews 1:8 because:

(a) Hebrews 1:8 is a quote from Psalm 45.
(b) In that psalm, the king is called elohim (god).
(c) The writer of Hebrews interpreted the king of Psalm 45 as a type of Christ.

That Jesus is called theos does not prove that He is God, for theos can also be translated either as “god” with a small “g.”  But translators are Trinitarians, and therefore believe that Jesus is God.  To translate theos as “God,” with a capital “G,” rather than with a small “g,” when it refers to Jesus, IS PURELY INTERPRETATION.  It is an application of the Trinity doctrine.

BUT THE VERY NEXT VERSE PROVES THAT JESUS IS NOT GOD, for it says that Jesus has a God over Him.

 

What does the Bible teach about the Trinity? – A response to GotQuestions’ article.

I briefly explained the historical development of the Trinity doctrine to my daughter.  I started with the church fathers of the first three centuries, through the tumultuous events of the fourth century, with a brief overview of the history there-after.  She then apparently did some reading, and sent me a reference to the GotQuestions article – What does the Bible teach about the Trinity?  In the current article, I respond section by section to that article.

All bold, underlining, UPPERCASE, font sizes and italics in this article were added by myself.  Bible quotes are mostly from the NASB.

Gotquestions wrote:

The MOST DIFFICULT THING about the Christian concept of the Trinity is that there is no way to perfectly and completely understand it. The Trinity is a concept that is IMPOSSIBLE FOR ANY HUMAN BEING TO FULLY UNDERSTAND, let alone explain. GOD IS INFINITELY GREATER THAN WE ARE; therefore, we should not expect to be able to fully understand Him.

Though we can understand some facts about the relationship of the different Persons of the Trinity to one another, ultimately, it is incomprehensible to the human mind. However, this does not mean the Trinity is not true or that it is not based on the teachings of the Bible.

God is infinite.

In response, I certainly agree that we are unable to understand God.  The LORD Himself declared:

As the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways
And My thoughts than your thoughts
” (Is. 55:8-9).

We will NEVER be fully able to understand Him, even in eternity, because HE EXISTS WITHOUT CAUSE.  He exists beyond time, space and matter.  All else exist because He exists.  All things came forth from Him and exists within Him.  We can accept that He is infinite, omniscient (all-knowing) and omnipresent, but our finite minds cannot comprehend these things.  We are like a lone wanderer building a small fire at night in the desert.  In the light of the fire, we can see our immediate surroundings, but we can see NOTHING of the expanse of the earth.  We similarly know only a tiny bit about God, BUT WE UNDERSTAND NOTHING of His infinite greatness.

Trinity Concept

However, we must distinguish between God and the Trinity concept. The Trinity concept is A HUMANLY DEVISED THEORY about the nature of God and the relationship between the Father, the Son, the and Holy Spirit.  Gotquestions claims that the Trinity concept is BASED ON THE BIBLE, but it is nevertheless a human interpretation of the Bible, and therefore fallible.  We, therefore, MUST TEST THE TRINITY CONCEPT AGAINST THE BIBLE.

But before we do that, it is the purpose of this article to evaluate the Trinity doctrine in a different way, namely to ask whether it makes logical sense.  This is the playground of philosophers.  Over the centuries, some of them have argued that the Trinity doctrine contradicts itself, and for that reason, cannot accurately reflect Bible revelation, for TRUTH DOES NOT CONTRADICT ITSELF.  Listen to Trinities podcasts 2 and 3 for arguments for and against the logical consistency of the Trinity doctrine.  Those podcasts discuss the Athanasian Creed, which is how the Trinity Concept was formulated more or less in the fifth century.  That creed was used throughout the middle ages and is considered important even to this day.

Three Persons, But One Being

Gotquestions defines the Trinity concept as follows:

The Father is God,
the Son is God, and
the Holy Spirit is God—
but there is only one God.

The Trinity concept is accused of being contradictory because it says that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are three distinct and different Persons with different wills, but one and the same Being:

Different

We agree that they differ, for example:

The Son is BEGOTTEN from the Father,
the Holy Ghost PROCEEDS from both the Father; but
the Father is NOT BEGOTTEN and
does NOT PROCEED from any other.

Further examples of differences between them are:

The Son “is seated AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD” (Col. 3:1).  Stephan said, “I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing AT THE RIGHT HAND OF GOD” (Acts 7:56).

Jesus said, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42). THIS MEANS THAT THEY HAVE DIFFERENT WILLS.

One Being

In the Trinity doctrine they are one and the same Being, for the Athanasian Creed declares:

We are compelled … to acknowledge
every Person by himself to be God …
(but we are) forbidden by the catholic religion; to say,
There are three Gods.

The Trinity doctrine does not teach that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are three parts of God.  It teaches that “EVERY PERSON BY HIMSELF TO BE GOD.”  In other words, whatever we can say about the Father, is also true about the Son, and vice versa.  To quote the Athanasian Creed:

Such as the Father is;
such is the Son; and
such is the Holy Ghost.

The Father is Almighty;
the Son Almighty; and
the Holy Ghost Almighty. And yet
they are not three Almighties; but one Almighty.

More than one Almighty Being is logically impossible.  They are, therefore, only “one Almighty.”  Thus, we can represent the Trinity concept with the equation:

God  =  Father  =  Son  =  Holy Spirit.

One would, therefore, be able to say that the Son is also the Son’s Son.  To say that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three different Persons, with different origins, but one and the same Being is analogous to saying that Peter, John, and James are three persons, but one being.  The Athanasian Creed states that we are “forbidden … to say, There are three Gods,” but just saying that does not make it right.  It does not undo the logical contradiction of the doctrine.

Modalism

Since they are one, the obvious implication is that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three names for the same Being.  This is what some church fathers believed.  They viewed the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are different “modes” or “manifestations” of God.  This is known as modalism or Sabellianism, but was rejected by the small “c” catholic church.

Christ’s Dual Nature

A further contradictory element of the Trinity theory is that Jesus is both FULLY GOD AND FULLY MAN.  This is the teaching that He has both a human and a divine nature.  That makes Him a binary being, comparable to the view that God is a trinity.

This was the primary focus of the Chalcedonian Creed of 451.  This creed responded to the question:

If Jesus is “very God of very God,” WHY DID HE NOT KNOW THE DAY AND HOUR OF HIS RETURN?  WHY DOES ONLY THE FATHER KNOW THAT  (Mat. 24:36)?

And why does the New Testament so consistently present Him as
subordinate to God, the Father?

The Chalcedonian Creed explains the subordination statements in the New Testament by saying that Jesus was speaking from His human nature.  Opponents of this theory point out that that then means that Jesus was not telling the truth when He said that He does not know, for in His divine nature He actually knew.  And if that was not a true statement, HOW CAN WE RELY ON ANYTHING ELSE THAT HE SAID? 

Furthermore, if Jesus had both a divine and a human nature, THEN HE NEVER REALLY DIED and nobody died, for only His human nature died, which was part of Him.  But His death is a fundamental part of the gospel.  This theory causes more problems than it solves.

Religious Persecution

The Athanasian Creed starts and ends with the following words:

This is the catholic faith;
which except a man believe truly and firmly,
HE CANNOT BE SAVED
.


Which faith unless every one do keep whole and undefiled,
WITHOUT DOUBT,
HE SHALL PERISH EVERLASTINGLY
.

This is a ridiculous claim.  In the first place, people are not saved by believing a doctrine.  They are saved by God’s grace through faith in Him.  They are saved when they love and support God’s suffering people (Mt. 25:34-40).

Secondly, Athanasius MADE A VERY TECHNICAL AND CONTRADICTORY STATEMENT OF BELIEVE A TEST OF TRUE FAITH.  And these were not idle words.  The Roman Empire was not known for religious tolerance, and after the emperor became the de facto head of the church, early in the fourth century, the church slowly adopted the character of the Roman Empire.  For example, immediately after the Nicene Creed of AD 325, a number of dissenting bishops lost their jobs and were exiled.  Constantine also destroyed all of Arius’ books and threatened to kill all people who hide his books.  Over the many years since that time, many Christians were persecuted for not accepting the prevailing theory of the nature of God.

Michael Servetus

Christianity.com has an article on Michael Servetus, who was burned for heresy in the town where Calvin was the pastor.  Michael was quite an astute scientist.  He studied mathematics, geography, astrology, and medicine. Gaining fame as a physician, he came close to discovering the pulmonary circulation of the blood.  In 1531 Servetus published a work called the Errors of the Trinity. Both Protestants and Catholics found the work blasphemous, and the emperor banned the book.

Michael continued to criticize Calvin and stated that, to believe in the Trinity, is to believe in the spirit of the dragon.  Calvin wrote to a friend that if Servetus ever fell into his hands, he would not allow him to get away alive.  Roman Catholic authorities arrested Michael for heresy. He escaped, however, and fled toward Naples by way of Geneva where Calvin was a pastor. He entered a church where Calvin was preaching, was recognized, and arrested on charges of blasphemy and heresy.  Calvin insisted with the rest that Servetus must die, but urged that in mercy, Servetus be executed by the sword, not by burning.  Servetus was nevertheless burned to death on October 27, 1553.

The Christianity.com article attempts to exonerate Calvin for his involvement, but his part in killing Servetus should really bother Calvinists, for Calvin did that after writing one of the most influential systems of theology the Christian faith had ever seen.  What does that say of the spirit of his work?

Things that have not been revealed

The Trinity doctrine attempts to explain THINGS THAT HAVE NOT BEEN REVEALED and is, therefore, a sin.  For example, the cornerstone of the Nicene Creed is the statement that the Father and Son are of the same substance (Homoousios).  Where is that revealed in the Bible?  And where is it revealed that the Son has both a human and divine nature?

Add the persecuting spirit, which entered the church in the fourth century, after it became the official state church, to doctrines based on things that have not been revealed, and we have a deadly combination.

Summary

Gotquestions stated that the most difficult thing about the concept of the Trinity is that there is no way to perfectly and completely understand it, for we are unable to understand God.  However, that statement confused two things:

      • God, and
      • The concept of the Trinity

The Trinity concept is a humanly devised theory about the nature of God, and WE MUST TEST IT AGAINST THE BIBLE.

This article claims that THE TRINITY DOCTRINE CONTRADICTS ITSELF because it claims that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are three distinct Persons, but one and the same Being.  And if the Trinity concept contradicts itself, then it is not an accurate reflection of what the Bible teaches.

The Father and Son as different Persons with different wills.  The Bible also reveals the Son as subordinate to the Father; not only when He was on this earth, but still today and in all eternity.  How then can they be one single Being?

The Trinity doctrine does not teach that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three parts of God.  It claims than each of them is the entirety of the One True God.  But it still claims that they are three different Persons.

Gotquestions argues that we cannot understand this because we cannot understand God, but it is proposed here that the Trinity concept is not consistent with the Bible.

A further contradiction in the Trinity theory is that Jesus is both fully God and fully man.  This argument is used to explain why the Bible presents Him as NOT KNOWING ALL THINGS and as SUBORDINATE TO THE FATHER.  But, if this was true, then Jesus did not tell the truth when He said that He does not know, for in His divine nature He actually knew.

The Trinity doctrine is a very technical and ambiguous theory, but still, the church made it a test of the true faith and persecuted dissenters.  The Trinity doctrine tries to explain things that are not fully revealed in the Bible.  Combining that with persecution is the spirit of the beast.

The next article in this series discusses Hebrews 1:8, which Gotquestions uses as evidence that Jesus is God.

 

In the Trinity doctrine, God is more than one Person. Does elohim support this view?

Purpose

ElohimElohim (אֱלֹהִים) is the Old Testament Hebrew word that is most frequently translated “God.”  Elohim is plural in form, for it has the plural suffix im.  Plural nouns normally signify multiple instances of that noun, which is also true of elohim.  The Bible applies elohim more than 400 times to pagan gods.  In such instances it is translated as “gods” and is associated with plural verbs and plural adjectives.  For example, “My people have forgotten Me, They burn incense to worthless gods.”

Some Trinitarians argue that the Old Testament writers used elohim because they thought of God as a multi-personal Being.  The purpose of this article is to show that this is not true.

Plural of Majesty

Firstly, the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament says about elohim:

The plural ending is usually described as a plural of majesty and not intended as a true plural when used of God. This is seen in the fact that the noun ’elohim is consistently used with singular verb forms and with adjectives and pronouns in the singular.

An example of this is Genesis 1:26: “God (elohim) said, “Let Us make man in Our image.  Here plural pronouns are used but the verb “said” is in singular, which implies that “God” is a single Person.  This further implies that the “Us” and “Our” include persons other than “God.”  In the New Testament, God made the world through His Son (Heb. 1:1-2).  “God” therefore refers to the Father, and the “Us” in Genesis 1:26 may include the Son.

An example where elohim is used for a human being as a plural of majesty is Exodus 7:1, where “the LORD said unto Moses, See, I have made you a god [elohim] to Pharaoh.”  Here, God told Moses that He was going to make Moses appear great in the eyes of Pharaoh, as we see in Exodus 11:3:

The man Moses was very great in the land of Egypt, in the sight of Pharaoh’s servants, and in the sight of the people.

IT WAS GENERAL PRACTICE AMONGST THE HEBREW PEOPLE TO PLURALIZE NOUNS WHEN THEY DESIRED TO EXPRESS GREATNESS OR MAJESTY.  It is then not a numerical plural.  For example, adonim is the plural form of adon, which means “lord” or “master.” In spite of its plural form, it frequently refers to a single person in an exalted position, for example to Abraham (Genesis 24:9, 10, 51).  Another example is Adonay, which is also a plural form of adon, and which always refers to God.  Still other examples are Baalim and Behemoth.  The Old Testament also sometimes refer to God as “the Holy Ones,” but used with singular verbs.

Monotheism

The distinguishing maxim in Judaism was and still is:

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord” (Deut. 6:4)

This slogan stood in opposition to the polytheism of the day.  The Hebrew mind had a firm understanding that there is only one God.  The pervasive monotheism of the Old Testament denies any idea that the authors of the Old Testament used elohim because they thought of God as existing in multiple Persons.

Translations

The New Testament was written in Greek.  In Greek, the word for “god” is theos. The plural form of theos is theoi, which is used to refer to multiple “gods,” for example, “When the crowds saw what Paul had done, they raised their voice, saying ‘The gods (theoi) have become like men and have come down to us.’” (Acts 14:11).

Although theos has a plural form, the New Testament always uses the the singular form for God.

This is also true when the New Testament quotes passages from the Hebrew Bible.  The New Testament writers always translated the Hebrew word elohim with the singular noun theos, for example in Mark 12:29.  If elohim really indicated that the one true god consists in multiple Persons, then the New Testament writers would have also used the plural form of theos.

SeptuagintThe Septuagint is the ancient translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek.  When used for the God of Israel, the Septuagint also always translates elohim with the singular theos.

Dictionary Definitions

On the basis of this ample evidence, dictionaries define elohim as a plural of majesty.

“Elohim is a plural form which is often used in Hebrew to denote plentitude of might.” — (Hertz, The Pentateuch & Haftorahs)

“The form of the word, elohim, is plural. The Hebrews pluralized nouns to express greatness or majesty.” — (Flanders, Cresson; Introduction to the Bible)

“The Hebrew noun elohim is plural, but the VERB is singular, a normal usage in the OT when reference is to the one true God. this use of the plural expresses intensification rather than number and has been called the plural of majesty.” — (New International Version Study Bible, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1985, p. 6)

“The plural form of elohim has given rise to much discussion. The fanciful idea that it referred to the Trinity of Persons in the godhead hardly finds now a supporter among scholars.” — (Smith’s Bible Dictionary)

Counterarguments

Despite this strong evidence, some still attempt to show that elohim “allows for” a plurality of divine Persons within God.  To support this claim, they point to a few exceptions where the Old Testament uses plural verbs, pronouns, adjectives, participles etc. with elohim.  But a handful of exceptions can never negate the evidence from more than 2500 instances where the Old Testament uses elohim for God with singular verbs.  It is much more probable that the few plural verbs, etc. are part of the Jewish practice of using plurals to express greatness.

What is His son’s name?

AnsweringIslam uses Proverbs 30 to support its claim that God is a Trinity:

The words of Agur son of Jakeh. … I have not learned wisdom, nor have I knowledge of the Holy One (qadoshim – the NRSV renders this as “holy ones). Who has ascended to heaven and come down? Who has gathered the wind in his fists? Who has wrapped up the waters in a garment? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is his name, and what is his son’s name?” (Proverbs 30:1-4)

Since Agur speaks of “the holy ones,” of God’s incomprehensible acts and of “his son’s name,” AnsweringIslam concludes:

That “the holy ones” refer to the Father and the Son;
That “his son” refers to the pre-incarnate Jesus;
That they are equal;
That both incomprehensible;
That this text established the deity of the Son of God; and
That God has a multi-personal nature.

However, the Old Testament does not contain the concept that God has a Son, as we know Him from the New Testament. To find evidence of the existence of the Son in a few isolated and ambiguous verses is wishful thinking.  AnsweringIslam’s conclusion is therefore astounding.  To base all these conclusions on such an ambiguous passage is to hang a mountain on a camel’s hair.  “His son” is possibly just a metaphor to emphasise that, for Agur, as well as for us, God is utterly incomprehensible.

For a further discussion, see End Times Prophecy.

Ignatius of Antioch described the Son as our God, immortal and being life.

This is the fourth article in the series on the historical development of the Trinity doctrine.  These first articles discuss the views of the church fathers in the first three centuries to determine whether they understood God to be a Trinity; One Being but three Persons.  The previous articles were An Introduction, which defined the Trinity, followed by analyses of the teachings of Polycarp and Justin Martyr.  The current article reflects the thoughts of Ignatius of Antioch.

Triad

Ignatius of Antioch (died 98/117) wrote

“In Christ Jesus our Lord, by whom and with whom be glory and power to the Father with the Holy Spirit for ever” (n. 7; PG 5.988).

Trinitarians quote this because it mentions the triad of three Persons together.  However, as previously stated, mentioning them together does not mean that they are one or that they are equal.  It only means that they are related.  In Ephesians 4:5, Paul mentions “one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God.”  That means that these four form a logical group; not that they are equal or the same.

One God

Ignatius contradicted the Trinity theory earlier in the same work when he identified the Father alone as God:

Thou art in error when thou callest the daemons of the nations gods. For there is but one God, who made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that are in them; and one Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, whose kingdom may I enjoy. (Martyrdom of Ignatius 2)

Ignatius here seems to interpret 1 Corinthians 8:4-6, which reads:

Even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth … yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.

These statements explicitly identify the one God as someone distinct from the one Lord Jesus Christ.  In other words, the Father is the one God.

The only true God

Ignatius further wrote:

There is only one true GodBut our Physician is the only true God, the unbegotten and unapproachable, the Lord of all, the Father and Begetter of the only-begotten Son
We have also as a Physician the Lord our God Jesus the Christ;
the only-begotten Son and Word, before time began,
but who afterwards became also man, of Mary the virgin. For ‘the Word was made flesh.’
Being incorporeal (intangible), He was in the body;
Being impassible (incapable of suffering or feeling pain), He was in a passible body;
Being immortal, He was in a mortal body;
Being life, He became subject to corruption, that He might free our souls from death and corruption, and heal them, and might restore them to health, when they were diseased with ungodliness and wicked lusts.
(Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, eds., The ante-Nicene Fathers, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975 rpt., Vol. 1, p. 52, Ephesians 7.)

Pre-existence

According to this quote, before the Son became human, He was the only-begotten Son and Word, incorporeal, incapable of suffering, immortal and being life.  To say that He was incorporeal and incapable of suffering seem to be speculations, for such things are not mentioned in the Bible:

The description of the Son as “being life” is perhaps explained by the statement, “Just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself” (John 5:26).  On the one hand, it means that He received “life in Himself” from the Father, which means that He is subordinate to the Father.  On the other, there are only two Beings who have “life in Himself,” which testifies of a close relationship and similarity.

The statement that the Son was immortal seems to contradict the statement that the Father alone “alone possesses immortality” (1 Tim. 6:16), but there are two kinds of immortality; conditional and unconditional.  The Father alone is essentially (unconditionally) immortal, while humans will become immortal “when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality” (1 Cor. 15:54).

Before time began

For Ignatius, as per the previous quote, the Father is “unbegotten” and the “Begetter of the only-begotten Son.”  This is an important distinction between the Father and Son.  Later Arius would conclude that the Son, therefore, had a beginning; that there was a time when the Son was not.  For Ignatius the Son was begotten “before time began,” which implies that He existed as long as time existed.  But this does not mean that the Son is equal to the Father.  To explains:

Time was created.  There exists an infinity outside time, for God exists beyond time.  In that infinity beyond time, the Son was Begotten, according to Ignatius.  If we use the word “before” not in a literal time sense, then we can say that the Father existed “before” the Son.

“Begotten” is human language for something that humans are unable to even begin to understand.

In the quote above, both the Father and Son are called physicians.  Later in the quote, Ignatius describes the sinner as “diseased” and the work of the Physician is not to judge, but to “heal … restore … to health.”  “Physician” is a most appropriate description of God’s attitude towards sinners, for He is not an independent Judge, but a kind Father.

Our God Jesus the Christ

In the quote above, Ignatius describes the Son as “our God.”  Some apologists use such phrases to argue that the church fathers before Nicene believed Jesus is God. But in the previous sentence, Ignatius described the Father as “the only true God,” which means that the Son is not “true God.”  This confusion does not exist in the original text but is caused by the translation.  To explain:

In modern English, we use the word “God” to identify one specific being.  It functions as a proper name for the Almighty.

The ancient languages did not have the modern differentiation between lower and upper case letters.  They only had words (theos in Greek) that are equivalent to our word “god.” The word “god” does not identify one specific being, but a category of beings.  The Christian God was regarded as one of the gods.

The following are examples from the Scriptures to show that the Hebrew mindset had no problem applying the word for “god” to:

Moses (Exodus 7.1),
● Angels (Psalm 8.5; cf. Hebrews 2.7),
● The divine council (Psalm 82.1, 6),
● Israel’s judges (Exodus 21.6, 22.8),
● The Davidic king (Psalm 45.6),
● Appetite (Philippians 3.19),
● Those who receive the word of God (John 10.34-35), and even to
● Satan (2 Corinthians 4.4).

Also outside the Bible, in the Greco-Roman world, they had a plethora of gods, including the emperors.  Paul confirmed, “indeed there are many gods and many lords” (1 Cor. 8:5).

In other words, during the early centuries of Christianity, the word theos (god) had a flexible meaning.  And since “every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Phil. 2:11), it was quite natural and appropriate for the first Christians to refer to the Son as theos.

Translation causes confusion

So the original text is clear.  All we have in the Greek Bibles is the word theos.  It says that the Father is the only true “god” and the Son is our “god.”  The confusion is caused by the theology of the translators.  When translators think that the Almighty is intended, they translate theos as “God.”  Since most translators are Trinitarians, they also translate the instances, where Jesus is referred to as theos, as “God.”  When theos does not refer to the Father or to the Son, they translate the same word as “god.”

Ignatius’ translator similarly assumed that Jesus is God, in the Trinitarian sense of the word.  Therefore, the translation refers to Him as “our God.”

However, the phrase “only true God” is illogical, for the word “God” is not a category name.  It would have been more logical to translate this phrase as “the only true god” or as “the only God.”  The same applies to John 17:3, where Jesus says that the Father is “the only true god.”

Similarly, the translations should refer to the Son as “our god” (small “g”).  A more literal translation would have reduced the confusion significantly.  For a more complete explanation, see The Meanings of the Word THEOS.

Summary

The word “God” did not exist in ancient times.
Which instances of theos are translated as “God” is substantially dependent on the theology of the translator.

Ignatius describes only the Father as “unapproachable.”  This is a quote from 1 Tim. 6:16, which says that the Father “alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light.”  Since, for Ignatius, the Father is “the only true god,” unbegotten and unapproachable, the Father is in a category all by himself.   For him, the Father and Son are not equal, as Trinitarians propose.  Rather, the Son is subordinate to the Father.

Conclusion

Ignatius condemns by Trajan. Polycarp, Justin Martyr, and Ignatius all died for their faith.

Ignatius made a clear distinction between God and Jesus Christ: The Father is the only true God, the unbegotten and unapproachable, the Lord of all, who “made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that are in them.”  He is ”the Father and Begetter of the only-begotten Son.”

Trinitarian Arguments

There are a number of statements in the quotes from Ignatius that people use to prove that the Son is equal to the Father:

Ignatius describes the Son as “our God,” but he identified the Father as “the only true God,” which means that the Son is not “true God.”  As explained, the word “God” did not exist in ancient times.  Literally translated, the original text describes the Son as “our god” and the Father as “the only true god.” Which instances of theos are translated with a capital “G” (“God”) depends on the theology of the translator.

Ignatius wrote that the Son was begotten “before time began.”  This means that He existed as long as time existed.  But this does not mean that the Son is equal to the Father, for there exists an infinity beyond time, in which the Son was begotten by the Father.

Ignatius describes the Son as “immortal,” but this also does not mean that He is equal with the Father, for the Father “alone possesses (essential) immortality,” being immortal in terms of His being.

Ignatius wrote that the Son is “life,” but He received that life from the Father.

Finally

For Ignatius, the Father and Son are not equal, as Trinitarians propose.  Rather, the Son is subordinate to the Father.  There is no evidence in the quotes above that Ignatius thought that the Holy Spirit is self-aware, that the three Persons are equal, that they consist of one substance, that they are one Being or that Jesus has both a divine and a human nature.