Proof of the Trinity in the Old Testament
assembled and collected by Pat Miron
Evidence of the Holy Trinity - Father, Son and Holy Spirit
What is the Holy Trinity?
Although the words "holy trinity" are not found in the Bible, the Bible - both Old and New Testaments - clearly refers to the one God as a tri-unity - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
The term "trinity" is a contraction of "tri" (meaning three), and "unity" (meaning one): "tri" + "unity" = "trinity". .... Simply put, the Holy Trinity is one God in three persons who each share the same essence of deity.
What the Holy Trinity is Not!
It is not three Gods, or three modes of one God, or three essences.
God is also not three separate physical beings.
The Trinity is not the Father, Mary and Jesus.
Why Do Christians Believe in the Holy Trinity?
Simply put, because the Bible teaches it. Throughout the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, God refers to Himself in both singular and plural terms. In addition, the Father is referred to as God, the Son as God, and the Holy Spirit as God. Furthermore, the three personalities of the Godhead - Father, Son and Spirit, each conduct particular activities which are characteristic of their personality. Finally, they are all unified in absolute communion from all eternity as the one God.
So the Holy Trinity is one God, and yet three persons sharing one divine nature. Jesus, as the eternal Word of God, has shared in the Father's divine nature before time began. But when He entered time, space and matter, and, became flesh, He added a human nature to His existence. He did not cease being God - He simply added a human nature. Thus Jesus is one person of the Godhead, but with two natures - a human nature, and a divine nature.
Realizing that Jesus actually had two natures helps us understand and better appreciate how only Jesus could bridge the gap between the Creator God and His Creation. For example, did Jesus know all things (as God would)? As God, yes; as man, no. Did Jesus get hungry? As God, no; as man, yes. Did He know the time of His second coming? As God, of course; as man, no. Understanding the Holy Trinity also helps us understand why Jesus subordinated Himself to the Father, saying "The Father is greater than I". The Father and Son are equal in essence, but different in function. Much like human relationships, a father and son both share a human essence, but the father holds a higher office.
The same holds true with the Holy Spirit - He too shares in the same divine essence, but differs in function. 1 The Spirit is referred to both as God, and as a person in Scripture. He was also there at the beginning of creation ("and the Spirit hovered over the face of the waters"). As does any person, He makes choices, directs followers, and is grieved as well when His children go astray.
So although we do not understand HOW the one true God can also be three persons, the fact is, this is what Scripture teaches. And if God is who He claims to be, the eternal one who has always existed beyond time, space, and matter - who are we to question His triune nature? We shouldn't be surprised at this. In fact, does He not say "My ways are not your ways, neither are My thoughts your thoughts".
God is the absolute compound unity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit - three persons in one divine essence. Three persons who share one divine nature.
Think of a triangle - it has three corners, but it is still one triangle.
Evidence of the Holy Trinity in the Old Testament
Here are a just a few examples of the Holy Trinity - Father, Son and Spirit -- in the Old Testament (there are many more!):
In the Beginning, The Triune God Creates the Universe
Gen 1:1: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth". The Father is portrayed as the creative source of all things.
Gen 1:2: ".. and the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters". Here, in the second verse of Genesis, the Spirit of God appears as active in the creation process.
Gen 1:3: Then God said, "Let there be light; and there was light". The Son, the eternal Word of God, speaks the first of God's works into existence.
Points to note:
The first three verses of Genesis portray the triune God creating the heavens and the earth
Genesis 1 refers to the Father, verse 2 the Spirit, and verse 3 the Son, as the eternal (Word) of God speaking light into existence.
The Triune God Creates Man
Gen 1:26: Then God said, "Let Us [plural] make man in Our image, according to Our likeness...".
Gen 1:27: "So God [singular] created man in His [singular] own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them".
Points to note:
Verse 26 mentions God three times - Us, Our and Our
In verse 26, God refers to Himself in the plural form; while in verse 27, immediately following, He refers to Himself in the singular form!
Verse 27 mentions God three times - His, He and He
The Triune God Seeks an Intercessor
Isaiah 6:8-10: "Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us"? Here God refers first to Himself in the singular, then in the plural pronoun, confirming that there are multiple persons in the Godhead.
The Pre-incarnate Son Speaks of the Father and Spirit
Isaiah 48:16 "Come near to Me, hear this: I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; from the time that it was, I was there. And now the Lord God and His Spirit have sent Me". In this instance the pre-incarnate Son of God is speaking, indicating that He will go on behalf of the Father and the Spirit and redeem God's creation.
Pre-incarnation Appearance of the Son
Gen 18:1: "The LORD appeared to him by the terebinth trees of mamre, as he was sitting in the tent door in the heat of the day".
Gen 18:2: "So he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing by him".
Gen 19:24: "Then the LORD rained brimestone and fire on Sodom and Gormorrah, from the LORD out of the heavens".
Points to note:
This passage recounts the events preceding the destruction of the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah
Here the LORD (YHVH) has appeared on earth to Abraham, along with two angels
Verse 24 described how the Son (LORD) while on the earth, rained brimstone and fire from the Father (LORD) out of the heavens.
The OT further specifies the nature of divine plurality by identifying the three persons of the Godhead. These three persons are all distinguished from each other, and yet, in various ways, are identified as God: the Father (e.g. Deuteronomy 32:6; Isaiah 63:16, 64:8, Malachi 2:10); the person variously designated as the Messenger of the LORD (Heb. Malakh Yahweh), Word, or Son of God (e.g. Genesis 16:7-14, 21:17-18, 22:9-18, 28:10-22 (cf. Genesis 31:11-), 32:22-32 (cf. Hosea 12:3-4); Exodus 3, 13:21 (cf. 14:19), 23:20-22; Numbers 22:21-41; Judges 2:1-5, 6:7-24, 13:3-22, 2 Samuel 24:16; Psalm 2, 110:1, Isaiah 7:14, 9:6, 63:9; Jeremiah 23:5-6; Proverbs 30:4; Zechariah 1:10-11, 12:8; Malachi 3:1); and the Holy Spirit or Spirit of God (e.g. Nehemiah 9:20; Job 26:13, 33:4; Psalm 104:30, 106:32-33, 139:1-24, 143:10; 2 Samuel 23:1-3; Isaiah 11:2, 40:13; Ezekiel 11:5; Micah 2:7).
Finally, in addition to the above passages that separately speak of one or another person of the Godhead, assigning to them the names, attributes, and prerogatives of God, there are many passages which mention all three persons together, assigning to each a role in the divine works of creation, providence, and redemption. For example: 1) Genesis 1:1-3 mentions God creating all things by His Word and Spirit; 2) the same thing is reiterated in Psalm 33:6; 3) Isaiah 42:1 speaks of God, His Servant/Chosen One, and His Spirit, by which He will bring justice or righteousness to the world; 4) Isaiah 48:12-16 has the First and the Last, i.e. the eternal God, speaking of a time when He is sent by the LORD God and His Spirit; 5) in Isaiah 61:1, the person who is sent with the good news, i.e. the Gospel, says the LORD has anointed Him with His Holy Spirit, Who is upon Him; and 6) Isaiah 63 tells of the LORD, the Angel [Lit. Heb. Messenger] of His Presence, and the Holy Spirit bringing about salvation.
The Trinity in the Old Testament
A Brief Summary of the Evidence
By Anthony Rogers
In order to establish some kind of continuity between the message of the prophets and the doctrine of Tawheed, which Muslims allege is taught in the Qur'an, some Muslims argue that the Old Testament (not to mention the New) does not teach the doctrine of the Trinity. With an eye to this, the following aims to present a brief summary of the evidence that the prophets taught the Trinity.
As for my thesis, the following will show, unlike Muslims and other unitarians, orthodox Christians cling to and are comfortable with all of the Biblical material, which says that God is a uni-plural or triune being, preferring to follow the prophetic Word where it leads on this matter (and all others) rather than subject the truth of what God has revealed to the misguided dictates of unaided and fallen human reason or to a false revelation delivered in the name of a false god. In other words, Christians are those who submit to what God has said about Himself, however lofty His self-revelation may be, preferring this above rationalistic and idolatrous methods of determining the truth, which turn out to be arbitrary and worthless, not only when it comes to arriving at a true and saving understanding of God, but to account for anything in the world.1
OT Adumbrations and Evidences for the Trinity
The doctrine of the Trinity is interwoven throughout the entire warp and poof of the Old Testament; it is not merely found in a discrete passage or proof-text here and there. For example, from the beginning to the end of the Old Testament, plural nouns, pronouns, verbs, adverbs and adjectives are regularly used for God, at least in the Hebrew text. A cursory list follows:
The word Elohim is used thousands of times for "God"; Adonai is used hundreds of times for "Lord"; both of these words are plural nouns in Hebrew.
All of this (and more) can be found in the Old Testament in spite of the fact that singular words are readily available in each instance where these words occur. If the prophetic authors of the Bible were unitarians, we wouldn't expect them to speak about God in this way. Indeed, unitarians do not typically speak this way in ordinary conversation and fall all over themselves trying to explain them when they are brought up.4
One might say the use of plural expressions is customary among polytheists, but then in the case of polytheism it only needs to be pointed out that right alongside such plural references to God are singular words, even emphatic declarations that there is only one God. These singular references to God are just as disconcerting to polytheists as the plural references are to unitarians.
The same thing can be said for many other peculiarities distinctive of Old Testament revelation about God, such as when God speaks to or about another person who is identified as God or Lord (Psalm 2, 110:1, Isaiah 13:17-19; Hosea 1:7; Amos 4:10-11; Jeremiah 50:40; Malachi 3:1; Micah 5:2; Zechariah 2:8-11, 12:10, 13:7)5 or when the Biblical authors refer to more than one person as Yahweh, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Genesis 19:24;6 Psalm 457). Once again, this does not sit well with either unitarians or polytheists; the former because it implies personal plurality within the Godhead, contrary to their unitarian assumptions; the latter because it implies the essential unity of these divine persons, contrary to their polytheistic assumptions.
In addition to plural words and the divine distinctions pointed out above, mention can be made of the triadic prayers, benedictions, and doxologies of the Old Testament (e.g. Genesis 48:15-16; Numbers 6:24-26; Isaiah 6:38 see also Isaiah 33:22; Jeremiah 33:2; Daniel 9:19),9 which given their formulaic character, cry out for some kind of explanation. This cry has fallen on deaf unitarian ears and has been met with equally mute unitarian lips for a reason: this is not the way unitarians would naturally speak of their "god".
Finally, in addition to the above passages that separately speak of one or another person of the Godhead, assigning to them the names, attributes, and prerogatives of God, there are many passages which mention all three persons together, assigning to each a role in the divine works of creation, providence, and redemption. For example: 1) Genesis 1:1-3 mentions God creating all things by His Word and Spirit; 2) the same thing is reiterated in Psalm 33:6; 3) Isaiah 42:1 speaks of God, His Servant/Chosen One, and His Spirit, by which He will bring justice or righteousness to the world; 4) Isaiah 48:12-16 has the First and the Last, i.e. the eternal God, speaking of a time when He is sent by the LORD God and His Spirit; 5) in Isaiah 61:1, the person who is sent with the good news, i.e. the Gospel, says the LORD has anointed Him with His Holy Spirit, Who is upon Him; and Isaiah 63 tells of the LORD, the Angel [Lit. Heb. Messenger] of His Presence, and the Holy Spirit bringing about salvation.
An Objection Considered
The assumption that pre-Christian Jews did not believe in the Trinity is often allowed to run rough-shod over the evidence available from the OT. Not only is this irrelevant - since the question is not what ancient Jews in general allegedly believed but what the Jewish prophets taught as they were borne along by the Holy Spirit - but it isn't true in the first place. The Aramaic Targums and a wide body of inter-testamental literature give evidence of (at least) a nascent Trinitarianism among some Jews. Often what some people present as evidence against Jewish Trinitarianism comes from modern anti-Messianic Jewish sources, not from the writings of ancient Jews; when appeal is made to Jewish writings of the inter-testamental period, it is usually in a very selective way.
Proverbs 30:3 is particularly instructive for it goes on in verse 4 to mention God and His Son. For more on this, see the following two articles: The Incomprehensible Nature of God and His Son; and Jesus Christ - the Incomprehensible Son of God and Sovereign Lord of All Creation.
Isa. 63: 10 -11 "But they rebelled and grieved his holy Spirit; therefore he turned to be their enemy, and himself fought against them. Then he remembered the days of old, of Moses his servant. Where is he who brought up out of the sea the shepherds of his flock? Where is he who put in the midst of them his holy Spirit".
"Trinity" is a term used to describe the idea of one God existing in three distinct Persons, The Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The doctrine of the Trinity is not a 4th Century invention, its roots are found in the Old Testament.
Plural Words Are Used To Describe God Throughout The Old Testament
The Bible begins with these words:
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. (Gen. 1:1) The word 'God' is the Hebrew word "Elohiym". Elohiym is the plural form of the word God. It implies unity in plurality.
And while we don't endorse the theology found in the Zohar, their commentary on the Shema, the declaration that the Lord is one from Deuteronomy 6:4, is interesting:
"Hear, O Israel, Adonai Eloheinu Adonai is one". These three are one. How can the three Names be one? Only through the perception of faith; in the vision of the Holy Spirit, in the beholding of the hidden eye alone.....So it is with the mystery of the threefold Divine manifestations designated by Adonai Eloheinu Adonai--three modes which yet form one unity.
Some Subtle Examples Of The Trinity.
In the Old Testament we find that God has organized many biblical ideas in trinitarian ways.
The Old Testament itself is a "trinity" being made up of the Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings. The same is true for the Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Israel is also a trinity, being made up of priests, Levites, and Israelites. The Jews pray three times a day in the morning, afternoon, and evenings.
Does all this prove the Trinity? No, but it does open the door to the possibility, and should encourage us to continue our study. Ultimately the issue has to be decided by Scripture, which is where we will now turn our attention.
God Mentioned As Two Distinct Personalities
The LORD said to my Lord, "Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool".
God anoints God in Psalm 45:7:
You love righteousness and hate wickedness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of gladness more than Your companions.
God is speaking and says He'll save Israel by the Lord, their God in Hosea 1:7:
"Yet I [God] will have mercy on the house of Judah, will save them by the LORD their God, and will not save them by bow, nor by sword or battle, by horses or horsemen".
The Lord rains fire from the Lord in Genesis 19:24:
"Then the LORD rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah from the LORD out of the heavens".
God is sent by God in Zechariah 2:8-9:
"For thus says the LORD of hosts": "He sent Me after glory, to the nations which plunder you; for he who touches you touches the apple of His eye. For surely I will shake My hand against them, and they shall become spoil for their servants. Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent Me".
God sends His messenger, the Lord, who will come to His temple in Malachi 3:1:
"Behold, I send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple, Even the Messenger of the covenant, In whom you delight. Behold, He is coming," Says the LORD of hosts.
We find God and His Son in Proverb 30:4:
Who has ascended into heaven, or descended? Who has gathered the wind in His fists? Who has bound 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, if you know?
God gives the nations to His Son in Psalm 2:7-8:
The Lord has said to Me, 'You are My Son, today I have begotten You. Ask of Me, and I will give You the nations for Your inheritance, and the ends of the earth for Your possession'.
From God will come a Ruler who is eternal, of old, from everlasting in Micah 5:2:
But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.
God Is Mentioned As Three Distinct Personalities
There are a couple of wonderful examples of the Trinity in Isaiah:
Come near to Me, hear this: I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; From the time that it was, I was there. And now the Lord GOD and His Spirit Have sent Me.
Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, The Holy One of Israel: "I am the LORD your God, Who teaches you to profit, Who leads you by the way you should go".
The Lord became the Savior but it wasn't the Father, but the Angel of His Presence (A term referring to the physical manifestation of God), and we also have the Holy Spirit who was grieved when the people rebelled. Isaiah 63:7-10:
I will mention the lovingkindnesses of the LORD And the praises of the LORD, according to all that the LORD has bestowed on us, and the great goodness toward the house of Israel, which He has bestowed on them according to His mercies, according to the multitude of His lovingkindnesses.
For He said, "Surely they are My people, Children who will not lie". So He became their Savior. In all their affliction He was afflicted,
And the Angel of His Presence saved them; In His love and in His pity He redeemed them; And He bore them and carried them All the days of old.
But they rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit; So He turned Himself against them as an enemy, And He fought against them.
The Memra, The Word Of The Lord
It's interesting to see the way the ancient rabbis handled verses like the ones above. In the Targums, which are Aramaic translations of the Old Testament, the Aramaic word 'Memra', which means the 'Word' or 'The Word of the Lord', is used when physical manifestations of God appear or when God is mentioned more than once in the same verse. Here are a few examples from the Targums:
The Memra acts as a mediator between the Father and Creation:
And I will establish my covenant between My Word [Memra} and between you (Targum Onkelos Gen. 17:7).
And YHWH said to Noah, "This is the token of the covenant which I have established between My Word [Memra] and between all flesh that is upon the earth". (Targum Onkelos Gen. 9:17).
The Memra is God and is worshiped as such:
And Abraham worshipped and prayed in the name of the Word [Memra] of YHWH, and said, "You are Lord who does see, but You cannot be seen". (Jerusalem Targum Gen. 22:14).
The Memra is God, yet is a separate personality from the Father and Holy Spirit:
And the Word [Memra] of the Lord caused to descend upon the peoples of Sodom and Gommorah, brimstone and fire from the Lord in heaven. (Targum Jonathan on Gen. 19:24).
The Memra is Jesus:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. (John 1:1-4).
The Greek word for Memra is Logos, which in English translates to "The Word". So what John 1 is saying is that Jesus is the Memra, the Word. He is fully God yet distinct from the Father and is the mediator between the Father and Creation. "No one comes to the Father except by Me".
The concept of the Trinity has biblical support in the Old Testament. We see one God yet we also see clearly separate personalities. We see plurality in unity.
Some people want a God who is simpler than His creation. But that isn't the God of the Bible. The Trinity is a concept we can't truly understand, but can only get a faint idea of. C.S. Lewis summed it up well in Mere Christianity when he said:
"On the human level one person is one being, and any two persons are two separate beings -just as, in two dimensions (say on a flat sheet of paper) one square is one figure, and any two squares are two separate figures.
On the Divine level you still find personalities; but up there you find them combined in new ways which we who do not live on that level, cannot imagine. In God's dimension, so to speak, you find a being who is three Persons while remaining one Being, just as a cube is six squares while remaining one cube.
Of course, we cannot fully conceive a Being like that: just as, if we were so made that we perceived only two dimensions in space we could never properly imagine a cube. But we can get a sort of faint notion of it. And when we do, we are then, for the first time in our lives, getting some positive idea, however faint of something super-personal - something more than a person".
The Triunity (Trinity) of God in The Old Testament by Rich Deem
The Son is also found in the Old Testament:
"I will surely tell of the decree of the LORD: He said to Me, 'Thou art My Son, Today I have begotten Thee". (Psalm 2:7).
Do homage to the Son, lest He become angry, and you perish in the way, For His wrath may soon be kindled. How blessed are all who take refuge in Him! (Psalm 2:12).
Who has ascended into heaven and descended? Who has gathered the wind in His fists? Who has wrapped the waters in His garment? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is His name or His Son's name? Surely you know! (Proverbs 30:4).
"I kept looking in the night visions, And behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, And He came up to the Ancient of Days And was presented before Him. And to Him was given dominion, Glory and a kingdom, That all the peoples, nations, and men of every language Might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion Which will not pass away; And His kingdom is one Which will not be destroyed". (Daniel 7:13-14).
The third member of the triunity of God, The Holy Spirit, is also found extensively in the Old Testament:
Finally, there are a number of verses in the Old Testament in which the triunity of God is directly expressed:
Who has ascended into heaven and descended? Who has gathered the wind in His fists? Who has wrapped the waters in His garment? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is His name or His Son's name? Surely you know! (Proverbs 30:4)
Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, And a branch from his roots will bear fruit. And the Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him, The spirit of wisdom and understanding, The spirit of counsel and strength, The spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. (Isaiah 11:1-2)
"Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold; My chosen one in whom My soul delights. I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the nations". (Isaiah 42:1)
"Come near to Me, listen to this: From the first I have not spoken in secret, From the time it took place, I was there. And now the Lord GOD has sent Me, and His Spirit". (Isaiah 48:16).
The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, Because the LORD has anointed Me To bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent Me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives, And freedom to prisoners; (Isaiah 61:1).
In all their affliction He was afflicted, And the angel of His presence saved them; In His love and in His mercy He redeemed them; And He lifted them and carried them all the days of old. But they rebelled And grieved His Holy Spirit; Therefore, He turned Himself to become their enemy, He fought against them. (Isaiah 63:9-10).
Some of the verses above include all members of the triunity (Isaiah 42:1, Isaiah 48:16, and Isaiah 61:1) Therefore, the Old Testament does reveal the Christian concept of the Godhead, with God being one God, consisting of three persons. How can God simultaneously exist as both singular and plural? It is a logical impossibility if God were restricted to the three dimensions of space and one dimension of time of our physical universe; but He is not!