Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Why I Believe God is a Single Divine Person


A correct understanding of what Scripture teaches is vital to the life of a believer. It is in every believer's best interest to re-examine and discard any doctrines that, though perhaps long cherished among those who consider themselves "orthodox," are based on unbiblical traditions and erroneous interpretations of Scripture. While some may find it difficult to change their views of certain verses and passages that have long been used to substantiate central doctrines of Christian orthodoxy, we must be careful not to let majority vote or tradition govern our understanding of what Scripture actually teaches. Tradition is an inevitable starting point, but when it is found to clash with the truth of Scripture, there can be no compromise. All tradition that is inconsistent with, or in any way undermines, the truth of Scripture, must be promptly rejected - even if this means giving up long-cherished views and beginning afresh.

As the views being defended in this article are carefully considered by the reader, I hope that this fact will be strongly impressed upon his or her mind: God has never said that we would know the truth by the number of sincere and intelligent people who believe it or have believed it. Nor has he said that we would know the truth by how long it has been believed. Truth is true - and falsehood false - irrespective of how many people believe or disbelieve it, or for how long they have believed or disbelieved it. Truth is not determined by majority rule and opinion, by the sword, by tradition or by time.

In this article I will be examining the nature and identity of God and his Son, Jesus Christ. Because the God who inspired the authors of the Bible is a rational being, and because the Bible was written for rational beings, it follows that a rational interpretation of the Bible (i.e., an interpretation that is in accordance with our God-given reason) is always to be preferred to an illogical, unreasonable interpretation of the Bible. If something is simply unintelligible and incoherent to our mind (and must consequently be confined to the dark and foggy realm of "mystery"), then it is impossible for us to exercise trust and confidence in its validity.

Although many will admit that such an approach to understanding God's written word makes good sense and should always be preferred, I propose that it has never been consistently practiced by those who hold to the position I will be challenging. This has been the case historically, and it is still the case today. Many readers of Scripture (including myself for much of my life) have read and interpreted it without the strict and consistent application of logic and reason, but have instead accepted with little or no questioning the traditions and doctrinal positions handed down to us (especially the doctrine of the deity of Jesus Christ, which constitutes the "pillar of orthodoxy" that has supported Christendom since the 4th century AD). Being accepted a priori as inspired truth, these traditions and doctrinal positions become the filter through which we read and interpret Scripture, and create boundaries over which we dare not step if we wish to be considered "orthodox." Of course, the mere fact that something is considered a "tradition" does not in itself make it wrong. But when tradition or popularity becomes the final arbitrator of how we should interpret and understand God's written word, I believe we have ventured into very dangerous territory.

What I Believe (In a Nutshell)

I believe Scripture reveals that God is a single divine Person who has revealed himself to be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. I further believe that Jesus is not the same being (and thus does not share the same uncreated and self-existent divine status) as his God and Father. Rather, I believe Scripture reveals that Christ was brought into existence by God, and is a fully human (albeit the only sinless and glorified human) being (Mt. 1:1-15, 18; Lk. 1:31, 4:4; 24:19; Mk. 8:31; Acts 2:22-23; 17:31; Rom 5:15; 1 Tim 2:5). I further believe that Christ remained perfectly obedient to his God and Father throughout his life, was crucified for our sins, entombed for three days, raised from the dead by God, and then exalted to God's right hand as Lord over all creation and as the one through whom all will ultimately be reconciled to God. I thus believe that Christ is completely unique among all created beings, and is second only to God in authority and rank.

But are there good reasons to believe that this is the right understanding of God and his Son? I think so. But before I begin to present my case, allow me to first briefly explain what I mean by the word "God." The word "God" (Hebrew: elohim; Greek: theos) is the primary title for the self-existent Creator of all that is (Gen. 1:1; Acts 14:15). God is, I believe, a personal being (having self-awareness, a first-person perspective and a rational mind and will), and he identifies himself with the personal name "YHWH" (or "Yahweh," when vowels are added), which may mean "the ever-existing one." God is also referred to in Scripture as "YHWH of hosts," "the Most High," "God Almighty" (El Shaddai), "the Lord" (Adonai) "the Living God," "the Ancient of Days," the "Holy One," and the "Father." He sits enthroned in the highest heaven (1 Kg 8:30; Ps. 102:19-20; Eccl 5:2; Mt 6:9; Mk. 16:19; Lk 1:19; 1 Tim 6:16), and is everywhere present by his Spirit (Jer. 23:23-24; Isaiah 66:1; Psalm 139:7-10; Eph 1:23). He has no equals (Isaiah 40:25; 44:6; 45:5; 46:5). He inherently possesses all wisdom and power, and thus knows all that can be known and is able to do all that can be done (Psalms 147:5; Isaiah 45:5-6; 46:9-10). He is incorruptible and cannot be beheld in all of his glory by the eyes of mortal man (John 1:18; Col 1:15). He is said to be "spirit" (John 4:24), "light" (1 John 1:5), and "love" (1 John 4:8, 16). Being a perfectly loving being, God loves his human creatures as a good parent does his children (even more so, in fact), and desires that we follow Christ's example by addressing and relating to him as our heavenly Father (Matt. 5:44-45; 23:1, 9).

Though of course much more could be said, I believe this to be a solid Biblical description of God.

God's Self-Revelation as a Single Divine Person

That God is a single divine Person is most consistent with the fact that, throughout Scripture, God repeatedly speaks of himself using singular personal pronouns and verbs. More than 20,000 singular pronouns and verbs are attributed to God in Scripture. The following are just a few examples:

Numbers 3:11-13
Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: "Now behold, I myself have taken the Levites from among the children of Israel instead of every firstborn who opens the womb among the children of Israel. Therefore the Levites shall be mine, because all the firstborn are mine. On the day that struck all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, sanctified to myself all the firstborn in Israel, both man and beast. They shall be mineI am the LORD."

Isaiah 45:22-23
Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. By myself I have sworn; from my mouth has gone out in righteousness a word that shall not return: "To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance."

Hosea 11:8-9
How can I give you up Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel? How can I treat you like Admah? How can I make you like Zeboiim? My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused. will not carry out my fierce anger, nor will I turn and devastate Ephraim. For I am God, and not man – the Holy One among you. I will not come in wrath.

The only exceptions to God's use of singular pronouns are found in Gen 1:26; 3:22; 11:7 and Isaiah 6:8. But these are most likely examples of God speaking to, and on behalf of, the angelic members of his heavenly court (Job 38:4, 7; Deut 33:2; Josh 5:13-15; 2 Sam 5:24; 1 Kings 22:19-23; 2 Kings 6:8-17; Psalm 148:1-5; Jer. 23:18; Isa 6:1-7; Dan 7:10; Neh 9:6).
Consistent with the overwhelming use of singular personal pronouns used by God is the fact that, in all of the visions and depictions of God in Scripture, God is beheld as a single, unipersonal being rather than as two or more persons:

Genesis 28:13
Behold the LORD stood above it, and said, "I am the LORD God of Abraham your father, and the God of Isaac."

Exodus 24:9-11
Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up, and they saw the God of Israel. There was under his feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness. And he did not lay his hand on the chief men of the people of Israel; they beheld God, and ate and drank.

The LORD said to Moses, "Come up tome on the mountain and wait there, that I may give you the tablets of stone, with the law and the commandment, which I have written for their instruction."

1 Kings 22:19 (cf. 2 Chron 18:18)
I saw the LORD sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing by, on his right hand and on his left.

Isaiah 6:1-5
In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: 'Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!' And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: "Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!"

Ezekiel 1:26-2:1
And above the expanse over their heads there was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like sapphire; and seated above the likeness of a throne was a likeness with a human appearance. And upward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were gleaming metal, like the appearance of fire enclosed all around. And downward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and there was brightness around him. Like the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud on the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness all around. Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard the voice of one speaking. And he said to me, "Son of man, stand on your feet, and I will speak with you."

Daniel 7:9-10, 13
As I looked, thrones were placed, and the Ancient of Days took his seathis clothing was white as snow and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames; its wheels were burning fire. A stream of fire issued out from before him; a thousand thousands served him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him...and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him.

Acts 7:55-56
But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, "Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God."

Revelation 4-5
After this I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, 'Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.' At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne. And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald. Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and seated on the thrones were twenty-four elders, clothed in white garments, with golden crowns on their heads. From the throne came flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder, and before the throne were burning seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God, and before the throne there was as it were a sea of glass, like crystal.

"And around the throne, on each side of the throne, are four living creatures, full of eyes in front and behind: the first living creature like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature with the face of a man, and the fourth living creature like an eagle in flight. And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say,

'Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!'

"And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying,

'Worthy are you, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they existed and were created.'

"Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, 'Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?' And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. And one of the elders said to me, 'Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.'

"And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne. And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying,

'Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.'

"Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, 'Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!' And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, 'To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!' And the four living creatures said, 'Amen!' and the elders fell down and worshiped.

In the above lengthy passage from the book of Revelation, John repeatedly refers to God as a single, unipersonal being seated on a single throne surrounded by angelic beings. He is referred to as "the Lord God Almighty" and "our Lord and God," and is distinguished from Jesus Christ, the worthy "Lamb." While Jesus was clearly understood by John to have been given power and authority that no other created being - whether human or angel - has ever possessed, he was not thought to be God himself, or part of a "triune God." Rather, Jesus was thought to be a highly exalted man who reigns at God's right hand as the ultimate Messianic King.

Before moving on, let's consider a few more references to the oneness/singleness of God in Scripture:

Job 31:15
"Did not he who made me in the womb make him? And did not one fashion us in the womb?"

Zechariah 14:9
And the Lord will be king over all the earth. On that day the Lord will be one and his name one.

Malachi 2:10
Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us?

Matt. 19:17
"And he said to him, 'Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.'"

Matt. 23:9
"And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven."

1 Cor. 8:4-6
Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.”For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”— yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

Rom. 3:29-30
Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith.

Gal 3:20
Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one.

Eph. 4:6
" God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all."

1 Tim. 1:17; 2:5
To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever... For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus..."

James 2:19
You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!

The Shema

Perhaps the most important religious creed of the Jewish people is that which is known as the "Shema." This creed was considered so important, in fact, that it was recited by Jews twice a day, every day. The Shema is an affirmation not only of God's existence but of an important aspect of his nature: his oneness. This central creed of Israel first appears in Deut 6:4: "Hear, O Israel: YHWH our God, YHWH is one." The word translated "one" (echad) occurs many times throughout the Old Testament, and means numerically and mathematically "one." No matter what is in view, it still means numerically "one." The word appears in the OT between 940 and 970 times, but the following examples should suffice: Gen 2:21; 42:11; Ex 9:7; Lev 16:5; Num 10:4; 2Sam 17:22; Eccl 4:9; Isa 4:1; Jer. 52:20; Mal 2:10.[i]

The fact that the Hebrew and English word for "one" can modify a collective noun does not mean "one" can ever mean "compound unity" or in any way mean more than numerically one. Even in English when we speak of collective nouns like "team," "group" or "herd" - and then modify such nouns with "one" - the word "one" still means "one." To speak of "one something," regardless of what the "something" is, still means we're talking about one single of whatever is in view. "One" means the exact same thing whether we're talking about "one grape," or "one cluster of grapes" (Num 13:23): i.e., "absolute mathematical oneness." In order for echad to be understood to be modifying that which is collective or compound, it must first be understood that whatever it's modifying IS collective or compound.

For example, in Genesis 2:24, we read that a man becomes "one flesh" with his wife. Of course, this is figurative language; the man and woman do not literally become "one flesh." This is a powerful image that speaks of the intimate physical, emotional and spiritual bond existing between husband and wife. But the word echad here still means "numerically one"- not numerically more than one. The "one flesh" that husband and wife figuratively become in Gen 2:24 is indeed "one flesh" (not "one fleshes"). Echad still means "numerically one" here. And in this and other similar passages, not only does echad maintain its meaning of "numerically one" (as it must in order for the figurative expressions to convey their intended sense), but two or more "parts" are mentioned, such that the reader can immediately discern that there is some kind of "coming together" of the people or things mentioned. But it is this factor that is conspicuously absent from Deut. 6:4. The Shema does not say, "YHWH our God, although three, is yet one." There is no hint of anything numerically more than one "coming together" here. No non-identical things (whether personal or otherwise) are spoken of or alluded to that, together, make "one" something. The declaration is simply that YHWH is numerically and unequivocally "one." This emphasizes in the strongest language possible the utter oneness of God in every conceivable sense, and necessarily excludes any idea of YHWH being numerically more than one (e.g., having numerically more than one will, or more than one "center of consciousness").

But to what does this affirmation of YHWH's "oneness" stand in contrast? What was Moses trying to emphasize here? Well, the gods (elohim) of the heathen were a plurality of distinct divine persons. Although sharing the divine nature/attributes by which a personal being could be categorized as a "god," they were still considered distinct gods. But why? It wasn't because they each possessed a different divine "essence" or "substance." Rather, it was because they were thought to be distinct persons with distinct functions and roles in relation to mankind. Even if some gods were thought by the pagans to be united in will and purpose and to form a "divine community" they were still understood to be distinct gods by virtue of their being different divine persons with different functions and roles in relation to mankind. But unlike the elohim of the heathen, YHWH is not a plurality of divine persons. YHWH is not two, or three, or 10 million divine persons; YHWH is "one."

Moreover, it is a common Hebrew idiom found in the OT to repeat a word (e.g., a person's name or title) for emphasis instead of using a pronoun. While the idiom can be used with impersonal things as well, the following are just a few examples where persons are in view: Gen 4:23-24; 16:16; 18:17-19; Ex 34:35; 1 Kings 2:19; 10:13; 12:21; Esther 8:8; Ezekiel 11:24; Dan 3:2-3; 9:17; Ex 16:6-7; 1 Sam 3:21; 12:7; 2 Chron. 7:2. Now, it's evident that Deut. 6:4 is an example of this idiomatic way of speaking; the divine name YHWH is repeated for emphasis instead of the use of a pronoun. But if we were to replace the second use of the name YHWH with an appropriate pronoun, what would we use? Well, based on the kind of pronouns consistently used in reference to YHWH throughout the OT, we would use the singular personal pronoun "he" (not "they"). Throughout the OT, YHWH Elohim is an "I," a "he," a "him" a "me," a "myself," etc. He is referred to, and refers to himself, as a singular person. So when we replace the second, emphatic use of the divine name with an appropriate pronoun, Deut 6:4 would thus read, "Hear, O Israel: YHWH our God, HE is one." "He" is the personal pronoun that is impliedhere, and with which the second "YHWH" could be appropriately substituted.

Jesus' Belief in the Unipersonal Nature of God

I believe passages such as these heavily tilt the scales in favour of a unipersonal understanding of God. But perhaps the most important reason to hold to this view of God is the fact that it is the understanding of Christ himself. Arguably, that which was most fundamental to Christ's worldview during his earthly ministry was what he believed concerning God. Jesus was, of course, a Jew, and every Jew was required to obey the Law given to them by God. In Mark 12:28-29, we read:

And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, "Which commandment is the most important of all?" Jesus answered, "The most important is, 'Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength."

In this passage we find Jesus reciting Israel's ancient creedal statement, the Shema. Now, the divine oneness that Jesus was affirming in Mark 12:28-29 refers to the oneness of his and Israel's God, collectively. But who was the "Lord God" of both Israel, collectively and Jesus, individually? Well, we know that the Jews in Jesus' day understood their God to be a single divine person. In response to Jesus' affirmation of the greatest commandment, the scribe answered, "You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him."Notice what the scribe didn't say. He didn't say, "...they are one," or that "there are no others besides them." Clearly, this scribe (who, on this point at least, we may understand to have accurately represented the Jewish belief in that day concerning God) believed that God was a single divine person rather than two or more persons. Similarly, Jesus declared to the unbelieving Jews, "If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, 'He is our God.' But you have not known him. I know him" (John 8:54-55).

Although Christ certainly reproved many of his Jewish brethren for not knowing their God in the sense of having a relationship with him, he never gave any indication that the Jewish understanding of God as a single divine person was incorrect, or that this essential tenet of Judaism needed to be modified. Jesus explicitly affirmed the strict monotheism taught in the OT and consistently spoke of the God of the OT as if he were an individual, unipersonal being (e.g., Matt 4:10; 6:25-33; 11:25; 22:31-32; 23:22; Luke 12:22-31; 18:7; 20:37-38; John 3:16-17; 3:34; 4:21-24; 5:44; 6:45-46; 8:42, 54; 13:31-32; 14:1; 16:27; 17:3; 20:17).

But when Jesus confessed, "the Lord our God, the Lord is one" just who exactly did Jesus have in mind? Who exactly was the Lord God of Jesus, whose oneness he affirmed every time he recited the Shema? In Luke 4:8, Jesus replied to the devil's temptation with the words of Deut 6:13: "You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve." Here Jesus is affirming that the "Lord God" must be the exclusive object of one's religious worship. Had Jesus yielded to the devil's temptation (which he did not do), he would've sinned against the Lord his God. But who exactly was the exclusive object of Jesus' worship, and to whom was Jesus completely devoted? Well, Jesus clearly refers to this divine being as a single person, both by his use of the singular personal title "Lord" (rather than the plural "Lords") and the singular personal pronoun "him" (rather than "them") when he says, "...and him only shall you serve."

Let's now look at some verses from Scripture and see if the identity of Jesus' Lord God - the entity whose oneness he affirmed whenever he recited the Shema - can be determined. First, we must state the obvious, since there are some Christians who are, unfortunately, ignorant of (or perplexed by) the fact that Jesus Christ has a God. But that Jesus has a God is something of which his disciples must never lose sight. Consider just two examples. On the cross, Jesus cried out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46) And after his resurrection, Jesus had the following words to say to the church in Philadelphia: "He who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name" (Rev 3:12). Thus we find that, both before and after his resurrection, Jesus understood himself to have a God.

"My God and Your God"

But what is the identity of Jesus' God? Consider the following verses from John's Gospel:

John 5:43-44
"But I know that you have not the love of God within you. I have come in the name of my Father, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, him you will receive. How can you believe, who receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?"

John 17:3
"Father...this is eonian life, that they may know Youthe only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent."

John 20:17
"I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God."

In these verses we find Jesus clearly distinguishing himself from a certain divine being whom he refers to as "God," "my God," "my Father," and "the only true God" - i.e., the one Lord God of Israel. While Jesus clearly saw himself as having a unique status (i.e., as one who was sent by the "only true God," and in whom his disciples should believe in addition to believing in God), it is also clear that Jesus did not view himself as the "only true God." Clearly, the one and only God of Jesus Christ was his heavenly Father. Jesus' God was his Father alone, and Jesus' Father alone was his God. We have not the slightest reason to believe any differently.

Not only did Jesus understand the Father to be his Lord God, but this was the understanding of Jesus' apostles as well:

"...that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans 15:6).

"The Head of Christ is God" (1 Corinthians 11:3).

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort" (2 Corinthians 1:3). 

"...the God and Father of our Lord Jesus" (2 Corinthians 11:31).

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Ephesians 1:3).

"The God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory" (Ephesians 1:17).

"We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Colossians 1:3).

"You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions" (Hebrews 1:9).

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 1:3).

"[Jesus] has made us kings and priests to his God and Father" (Revelation 1:6).

Thus we see that, contrary to the beliefs of most professing Christians throughout history, Jesus' understanding of God was that he is a single divine person - i.e., a unipersonal being. It is the Father whom both Jesus and his apostles understood to be Jesus' God. So whenever Jesus recited the Shema ("The Lord our God, the Lord is one"), who did he have had in mind? Answer: His Father. According to the rest of the NT, it was this single divine person whom Jesus worshipped, prayed to, was sent, taught and empowered by, and whose will he obediently carried out (Matthew 4:4 [Deut 8:3]; Mt 4:7 [Deut 6:16]; Mt 4:10 [Ex 20:3-5; 34:14; Deut 6:13-14; 10:20];Mt. 20:23; 22:34-40; 23:39; 26:39, 42, 53; Mark 11:9-10; 14:36; 12:29-30; Luke 6:12; 22:42; John 3:17, 32-35; 4:34; 5:19, 30, 36, 43-44; 6:38, 57; 7:16, 28; 8:26, 28, 38; 10:25; 12:49, 50; 13:16; 14:1, 10, 28; 15:15; 17:1, 3, 8, 26; Acts 2:22,34-36; 3:13-26; 5:30; 1 Cor. 8:6; Col 1:15; 2:9-12; Heb 1:1-3; Rev 1:1; 2:7).

While Jesus clearly has a unique status as one in whom we are called to believe in addition to believing in God (John 14:1), it is also clear that Jesus did not view himself as the "only true God." Instead, Jesus believed the "only true God" - the one God of Israel - was his God and Lord- i.e., the Supreme Being over him. And since Jesus' God (the Father) is the one "Lord God" whose oneness is affirmed in the Shema, then it follows that neither Jesus nor any other person is, or can be, the one God. While Jesus is certainly described in Scripture as being superior to every other created being (both human and angelic), he is, and always will be, inferior to his God. And as Jesus' disciples, we can have no other God except Jesus' God. His God, and no other, must be our God.

One God and Father of All

Paul's words in Eph. 4:4-6, 1 Cor. 8:6 and 1 Tim. 2:5 are especially helpful in understanding the oneness of God. Echoing Jesus' affirmation of the Father's oneness, Paul wrote in Eph 4:4-6,"There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all" (Eph 4:4-6). Here, Paul affirms that the same being who is the "one God" is also one Father. This is consistent with the words of Christ, who declared to the crowds and his disciples, "And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven" (Matt. 23:9). For both Jesus and Paul, the oneness of the "Lord our God" is the oneness of our Father in heaven.

In 1 Cor. 8:4-6, we read:
Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that "an idol has no real existence," and that "there is no God but one." For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many "gods" and many "lords"— yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

Here Paul declares that there is "no God but one," and then tells us exactly who this "one God" is: the Father. In other words, the divine "oneness" being affirmed by Paul is not (as most Trinitarians believe) the sharing of a single divine substance/essence/being by multiple persons, or a relational unity of divine persons. Rather, it is the oneness of the Father, who is both our God and Jesus' God.

But (it may be objected), Jesus is called the "one Lord." But is not the Father also called "Lord" (Greek: Kurios)? And if the Father is also "Lord," may not Christ also be understood as "God?" It is certainly true that Jesus' God, the Father, was understood by both Jesus and his apostles as being "Lord" (e.g., Mt. 4:7, 10; 22:37; Luke 1:68; 20:37; Acts 2:39; 3:22; 4:24; 17:24; Rev 1:8; 4:8, 11; 21:22). In Luke 1:31-32, for example, we read,

And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David...

Here it is evident that Jesus' God and Father is given the title "Lord," just as he is in the Shema as recited by Jesus in Mark 12. However, it would be a mistake to believe that Paul, in calling Jesus "Lord," was expanding the ancient creed of Israel to include Jesus as a second divine person who, with the Father, possesses all divine attributes (which, as we'll see later, would really make two Gods, not one). Rather, Paul is actually distinguishing Jesus from God in calling him "Lord." In referring to Jesus as "Lord," Paul is using a common title that, although denoting a position of superior authority, is not a title exclusive to the self-existent Creator of all. And not only this, but Paul knew that Jesus' highly exalted status and great authority (a status and authority which makes Jesus second only to God himself in the "heavenly hierarchy") is not inherently and eternally his but rather was derived from God (Phil 2:8-11; Rom 14:9). But if God may also be referred to as "Lord," what does Paul mean when he refers to Jesus as the "one Lord?"

The answer is simple, and can be found in the verse itself. Paul qualifies the "oneness" of Jesus' Lordship with the words, "through whom are all things and through whom we exist." That is, there is one Lord through whom are all things and through whom we exist, and this one Lord is Jesus Christ. This necessarily excludes the Father from being this "one Lord," for although he is certainly a Lord (the Lord God), he is not the Lord "through whom are all things and through whom we exist." Rather, all things are said to be "from" the Father, and we are said to exist "for" him. The Father is the "one God" who created all things, and Jesus Christ is the "one Lord" through whom all things now exist and are upheld. Moreover, if we are to believe that Jesus possesses all of the divine attributes possessed by the Father (although Scripture does not teach this), then this would make two Gods, not one. But the Father is said to be the "one God," so there cannot be any other persons with the same divine attributes as him. Otherwise, it would not be true that the Father is the "one God."

In 1 Tim 2:5, a similar idea is found. It is, first of all, noteworthy that Paul refers to Jesus as a "man" (rather than a "God-man," as he is sometimes described by Trinitarians). Although exalted by God over all created beings, Jesus is a human being (Mt. 1:1-15, 18; Luke 1:31, 4:4; 24:19; Mk. 8:31; Acts 2:22-23; 17:31; Rom 5:15). To be a human being is to possess all of the essential attributes by which a being may be categorized as "human" rather than as something else. But more specifically, Paul refers to the man, Jesus, as the "one Mediator" between the "one God" and "men" (i.e., sinful human beings who are in need of a mediator).
As the Mediator between these two parties (the one God and sinful humanity), Jesus is necessarily distinct from both parties. That is, just as Jesus is not the sinful humanity for whom he is the one Mediator (for Jesus, although a man, is sinless and has never been relationally estranged from God), so he is not the "one God." Jesus is the one Mediator who stands between sinful men and the "one God." There is only one Mediator through whom the one God has fully revealed himself, through whom the one God is blessing us with "every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places," and through whom the one God is upholding our existence. There is only "one Mediator" through whom we are able to come to God (John 14:6) and through whom we may be reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:18). Thus, to argue that Jesus may also be understood as the "one God" along with the Father merely because the Father is also called "Lord" in Scripture is to misunderstand the truth that Paul is affirming in these verses.

Thus far we've found that the "oneness" of the "Lord our God" being affirmed in the Shema is the oneness of Jesus' Lord God, who is one God and one Father. To conclude this section, let's now consider two brief logical arguments which support the view I have advanced so far:

1. God is the God of created persons only.
2. God is the God of Jesus Christ.
3. Jesus Christ is a created person.

1. The "Lord our God" affirmed in the Shema is the God of Jesus Christ.
2. Jesus Christ is not his own God.
3. Jesus Christ is not the "Lord our God" whose oneness is affirmed in the Shema.

One Lord, Three Persons?

In the Athanasian Creed (an ancient Catholic creed affirming Trinitarianism), we read,
So likewise the Father is Lord; the Son Lord; and the Holy Ghost Lord. And yet not three Lords; but one Lord. For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity; to acknowledge every Person by himself to be God and Lord; So are we forbidden by the catholic religion; to say, There are three Gods, or three Lords.

What we have being expressed in this creed is the following:

1. The Father is Lord.
2. The Son is Lord.
3. The Holy Spirit is Lord.

Now, assuming the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are distinct and separate persons (which is affirmed by orthodox Trinitarians), reason and common-sense dictates that what one should conclude is this:

4. There are three Lords.

But undeterred by reason and common-sense (and constrained by the theology of "the catholic religion"), the authors of this creed give the following conclusion:

4. There is one Lord.

Although this conclusion is certainly consistent with the doctrines of Roman Catholicism and all mainstream Christian denominations, is it consistent with Scripture? Well, we've already considered Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 8:4-6, where Jesus' Lordship is spoken of as unique, in that he is the "one Lord" through whom God is upholding all things. Jesus' Lordship is completely distinct from the Lordship of his God, the Father. While Jesus' God is certainly Lord, he is not Lord in the same sense that Jesus is Lord. For unlike Jesus, the Father is not the Lord "through whom are all things, and through whom we exist."

Another important text in which Jesus' Lordship is distinguished from the Lordship of his God and Father can be found in Mark 12:35-37. There, we read the following:

And as Jesus taught in the temple, he said, "How can the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David? David himself, in the Holy Spirit, declared, 'The Lord said to my Lord,
"Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet."'' David himself calls him Lord. So how is he his son?" And the great throng heard him gladly.

In Jesus' quotation from Psalm 110, two distinct "Lords" are in view. The first Lord is simply called "the Lord" while the second Lord (who is being addressed by the first Lord) is enigmatically referred to by David as "my Lord." Since two separate persons are in view, it follows that there are two separate Lords in view as well. The Lordship of the person speaking is the Lordship of Jesus' God, the Father, and is distinct from the Lordship of the person being spoken to (Jesus, the Messiah). Now, let's tie this in with what we said earlier concerning the Shema. If (as Jesus declares in Mark 12:29) "the Lord our God is one," then there is only one Lord who is the one God. Thus, only one of the Lords referred to by Jesus in his quotation of Psalm 110 is the "Lord our God." Jesus does not say, "The Lords (plural) our God are one." He says, "The Lord (singular) our God is one." Since the Lord who is speaking in this Psalm is Jesus' God (i.e., the Father), then we can conclude that Jesus' God (the Father) is the "Lord our God" whose oneness is affirmed in the Shema.

Further evidence that Jesus' Lordship is distinct from the Lordship of his God and Father is that Jesus' Lordship is derived from his God and is not inherently his. We read that God made Jesus Lord (Acts 2:36; Rom 14:9), gave him "all authority in heaven and on earth" (Mt. 28:18), highly exalted him (Phil 2:9), and bestowed on him a "name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God, the Father" (v. 10). In Romans 14:8-9 Paul gives his readers the end for which Christ died and rose again: so that he "might be Lord both of the dead and of the living." This implies that Jesus was not Lord of the dead and of the living before his death and resurrection. That Jesus' God made him Lord over all after his death and resurrection is consistent with the OT prophecies, where we're told that one who is superior in authority to David would be invited to sit at YHWH's right hand until he is given victory over his enemies (Psalm 110:1), and that the Messiah would be "given dominion and glory and a kingdom" (Dan 7:13-14). 

We're also told that Jesus "became" superior to the angels and "inherited" a name that is more excellent than theirs (Heb 1:4). Jesus' God, however, does not have to become superior to the angels or inherit a name that is more excellent than theirs. Nor did Jesus' God ever have to be made Lord, or given all authority in heaven and on earth, or given an exalted name by another being. Why? Because Jesus' God is the Supreme Being. By virtue of his divine nature and self-existence, he is (and always has been) infinitely superior to all created beings, and has always possessed all authority in heaven and on earth. Unlike Jesus, Jesus' God doesn't have to be given authority or made Lord.

Jesus' being made Lord of all was prefigured in the story of Joseph. Just like Pharaoh (who was considered a "god" to the Egyptians) exalted Joseph to a status that was second only to Pharaoh himself - even giving Joseph his signet ring (Gen 41:42), which signified the Pharaoh's own authority - so the one God (the Father) exalted his Son. While this elevated status did not make Joseph Pharaoh, it did enable him to do everything that the Pharaoh could do (and it was only the Pharaoh who could delegate this authority). Joseph was set over all the land of Egypt; all the people were under his command. According to Pharaoh, without Joseph's consent no one could even "lift up hand or foot in all the land of Egypt" (vv. 40-41, 44, 55). Not only that, but Joseph was even given a new name (v. 45). This is a beautiful type of what God did for Jesus when he raised him from the dead, set him at his right hand as Lord over all, and gave him a name that is above every name.

Peter's Confession

Let's now consider Peter's inspired confession in response to Christ's question concerning his identity. In Matt 16:13-17, we read:

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" And they said, "Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter replied, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven."

This is a key passage to our understanding of the identity of both Christ and God. What did Peter mean when he declared Jesus to be the "Son of the living God?" To begin to answer this question we must first identify the "living God" of whom Peter speaks. In Jeremiah 10:10 we read, "But the LORD is the true God; he is the living God and the everlasting King." Here the "living God" is identified as Yahweh, the one God of Israel (who is also referred to as the "true God" [cf. John 17:3] and the "eonian King" [cf. 1 Tim 1:17]). Thus, when Peter identified Jesus as the "Son of the living God" he was affirming that Jesus is the Son of Yahweh, the one true God of Israel. But what does it mean to say that Jesus is the Son of Yahweh? Does it mean that Jesus is Yahweh, the one God of Israel? No; if Yahweh is Jesus' Father, he is necessarily distinct from Jesus. When Peter called Jesus the "Son of God" he was expressing his understanding that Jesus had been directly fathered by Yahweh in some special and miraculous sense, and thus enjoyed a unique relationship with him.

The Messiah had consistently been prophesied in the OT as being a human member of Adam's race and distinct from the one God of Israel (Gen 3:15; 12:3; 22:18; 28:14; 49:10; Numbers 24:17-19; Deut 18:15; 2Sa 7:12-13; 1 Chronicles 17:13; Psalm 45:2-7, 17; 72:1; 89:3-4; 110:1; 132:11; Isaiah 7:14; 11:1-5; 52-53; Jeremiah 23:5; 30:21; Dan 7:13; Zech 6:12-13; Micah 5:2). Psalm 110:1 and Daniel 7:13 are especially relevant here. In Psalm 110:1 (which is one of the most frequently quoted OT verse in the NT), we read, "YHWH said to my Lord: 'Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.'" Here we find God inviting a personal being distinct from himself to sit at his "right hand." While it is clear that this person would be superior in authority to David (hence David calls him adoni, or "Lord"), it is equally clear that he is distinguished from, and inferior to, YHWH.

In Daniel 7:13, the Messiah is described in a prophetic vision as being "one like a son of man" and is distinguished from "the Ancient of Days" before whom he is presented, and from whom he receives his kingdom and authority. The "Ancient of Days" is portrayed as a unipersonal being (v. 9), and is clearly a title for YHWH, the God of Daniel and his people (Dan 9:4, 9, 13). It is YHWH who is also (and more frequently) referred to in Daniel as the "Most High" (Dan 3:26; 4:2, 17, 24, 25, 32, 34; 5:18, 21; 7:18, 22, 25, 27). In both verses we find that the Messiah would be a man who, although highly exalted far above all other human beings and given authority that is second only to YHWH's, is not to be identified with YHWH himself.

It had also been prophesied long before Peter's day that the Messiah would be fathered by Yahweh himself. Quoting Psalm 2:7 and 2 Sam 7:1, the author of Hebrews wrote: "For to which of the angels did God ever say, 'You are my Son, today I have begotten you'? Or again, 'I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son'?" (Heb 1:5) If these verses are to be understood as conveying anything meaningful, there must have been a time before the Messiah was begotten by God and became God's Son. But are we told that Jesus was fathered by God himself? Yes, we are. In Luke 1:31-35 (NASB) we read:

"And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David; and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and his kingdom will have no end." Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I am a virgin?" The angel answered and said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy child shall be called the Son of God." (See also Matt 1:18-21)

Jesus was supernaturally conceived by God (the "Most High"), thus making God (rather than Joseph) Jesus' actual father. We also find in this passage that Jesus' being the holy "Son of God" is directly tied to his being miraculously conceived in the womb of a virgin by the power of God. That is, Jesus (being the ultimate Messianic King of Israel) is the "Son of God" because he was directly conceived by God. Compare with Luke 3:38, where Adam is also called the "son of God" due to the fact that he was brought into existence directly by God through an act of special creation. The angels are referred to as "sons of God" for the same reason (Job 38:4-7; cf. Luke 20:36). Even believers are called "sons of God," since they have been fathered by God in a spiritual sense (John 1:12-13; 1 John 3:1-10; Rom 8:14-17; Gal 4:5-6; Eph 1:5).

Moreover, not only does Matthew speak of the beginning of Jesus' life as his "genesis" or origin (Mt. 1:18), but in v. 20, the same word translated "conceived" is elsewhere translated "begotten" (Heb 1:5; 5:5). The implication of uninspired creedal assertions (such as those of the Nicene Creed) notwithstanding, there is no suggestion in Scripture that Jesus was or is "eternally begotten" as a timelessly existing "God the Son."

Later, in Acts, Peter refers to Jesus not as God but as the "servant" of God: "The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus..." (Acts 3:13; cf. 5:30; Isaiah 42:1). If Jesus is the servant of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, then the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob must be Jesus' Lord and God. And since Jesus' God is a unipersonal being, it means the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is a unipersonal being (hence the singular personal pronoun "his" in the above verse). Jesus never claimed to be - nor does Scripture present Jesus as - the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, whom Jesus served, represented and spoke for during his earthly ministry. Rather, God is spoken of as a being distinct from and superior to Jesus. For example, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is frequently referred to as the "Most High" (Genesis 14:18-22; Num 24:16; Deut 32:8; 2 Sam 22:14; Psalm 7:17; 9:2; 18:13; 21:7; 46:4; 47:2; 50:14; 57:2; 77:10; 78:17, 35, 56; 82:6; 83:18; 87:5; 91:1, 9; 92:1; 97:9; 107:11; Isa 14:14; Lam 3:35, 38; Dan 3:26; 4:2, 17, 24, 25, 32, 34; 5:18, 21; 7:18, 22, 25, 27; Hos. 7:16; 11:7; Luke 1:76; 6:35; Acts 7:48). But rather than being identified as the "Most High," Jesus is instead said to be the Son of the Most High (Mark 5:7; Luke 1:32, 35). The Son of the Most High cannot be identified with the Most High himself; the fact that Jesus is the Son of the Most High means that Jesus is to be distinguished from the Most High. And since Jesus is not the Most High (who is Jesus' God), he is necessarily inferior to the Most High.

Trinitarianism: Tri-theism Disguised as Monotheism 

Trinitarianism affirms that there is only one God or divine being, and yet that this one divine being exists as three persons who are each fully divine in nature, and who share the same divine "substance" or "essence" that makes it possible to say they are each "fully God" or "fully divine" (as Trinitarians say of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit). Now, a person is an entity with a unique self-awareness, first-person perspective and will. No two persons can share the same identical existence, even if they share the same nature or essence (for two persons sharing one human or angelic nature still make two humans or two angels, not one). For any person to be categorized as "God" would mean that they inherently possess all the necessary divine attributes or properties by which we may categorize an entity as "God." For one person to inherently possess all necessary divine attributes would mean there is one God in existence. But two distinct persons who both inherently possess all divine attributes (and thus share the same divine nature) would make not one but two distinct Gods. And three distinct persons inherently possessing all divine attributes (and thus sharing the same divine nature) would make three distinct Gods (and so forth).

According to Trinitarians, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit each possess the same divine nature and attributes that make them each "fully God," or "fully divine." Thus, according to Trinitarian theology, we have the following:

1. The Father is a fully divine person.
2. The Son is a fully divine person.
3. The Spirit is a fully divine person.

Now, if there were only one fully divine person, then this fully divine person would be the fully divine person and thus the one God. And this individual God would thus be able to say, "alone am God and there is no other," or "I am the only true God." But if there were three distinct but fully divine persons, then each distinct but fully divine person would be a distinct but fully divine person and thus a distinct God. That is, there would be three separate Gods. In this case, each fully divine person would be able to say, "I am God and there are two others." Or they could perhaps say in unison, "We alone are the only Gods and there are no others." But Trinitarian theology cannot tolerate the logical conclusion that three fully divine persons would mean there are three distinct Gods. So to uphold the obvious monotheism of the Bible, Trinitarian theology must contradict itself (although not explicitly of course, for then its error would be obvious to all) and assert that these three fully divine persons - Father, Son and Holy Spirit - are really one God. But to say there is only one God and yet three distinct persons who each inherently possess a fully divine nature and all the necessary divine attributes (thus making it possible to say that each person is "fully God" or "fully divine") is clearly a logical contradiction.

The doctrine of the trinity is at war with both Scripture and our God-given capacity for reason which (among other things) distinguishes us from the animals. Merely asserting that the three fully divine persons exist in perfect relational harmony with each other and comprise a "divine community" doesn't change the fact that they would in fact be three separate Gods, and that this "divine community" is really a community of three Gods. Trinitarianism is, therefore, really tritheism masking itself as monotheism. It is simply a less obvious and more "sophisticated" form of polytheism, and as such should be considered a serious departure from the strict unipersonal monotheism that scripture affirms from beginning to end.

[i] The word yachid, on the other hand, is only used about 12 times in the entire Bible and then only in a narrow, specific sense. The Old Testament language authority, Gesenius, tells us that yachid is used in three very specialized ways: "(1) "only" but primarily in the sense of "only begotten" - Gen. 22:2, 12, 16; Jer. 6:26; and Zech. 12:10. (2) "solitary" but with the connotation of "forsaken" or "wretched" - Ps. 25:16; 68:6. (3) As yachidah (feminine form) meaning "only one" as something most dear and used "poet[ically] for 'life' - Ps. 22:20; 35:17."

Ironically, among the Hebrew words that can mean something like "united oneness" (such as achadim and kechad) are the various forms of yachad. The New American Standard Exhaustive Concordance (1981, p. 1529) tells us that #3161 yachad means "to be united" and #3162 yachad means "unitedness." And Nelson's Expository Dictionary of the Old Testament (1980, pp. 430, 431) also describes the various forms of yachad: "Yachad appears about 46 times and in all periods of Biblical Hebrew. Used as an adverb, the word emphasizes a plurality in unity." Used as a verb "yachad means 'to be united, meet.'" And although the noun yachad occurs only once, it is still used "to mean 'unitedness.'"

Interestingly, the medieval rabbi Maimonides used the term yachid in reference to God when drafting his thirteen articles of the Jewish faith. But this is probably because he thought the word better expressed and summed up the idea that "there is no other besides him" (Deuteronomy 4:35) - which seems likely, given the way YaCHiD is used in Scripture.