How We Know that the Trinity is Not in the Torah? Part 1

September 7, 2020 - 18 Elul 5780

Introduction

The first and most basic answer is that God did not explicitly reveal the Trinity in the Torah.

What Christians claim to be God's explicit revelation of the Trinity in the Torah are in fact implicit references to what they assume to be explicit revelations. There is a difference between the words "explicit" and "implicit." God explicitly tells the Jews that His Nature is Unified. He explicitly tells them that He expects them to keep His commandments, and explicitly tells them what will happen if they do not. He does not explicitly tell them that He is a Trinity. When God wants to make something understood clearly and imminently He explains it in an explicit fashion so as to remove any possibility of doubt of what He is referring to. He does not leave it up to conjecture or interpolation. This does not mean that the Torah is low on mystery or enigmatic passages, for any student of the Tanakh knows it contains many. Instead, those passages tend to be found in association with particular details related to narratives and not when describing His true Nature, or His expectations of the Jews or humanity.

The question becomes, if God wanted to reveal Himself as a Trinity why did all Jews up until the first century fail to realize that God had revealed Himself as such?

Some Christians like to make the claim that appearances of particular angels throughout the Torah are in fact appearances of the Second Person in the Trinity before he manifested himself as Jesus. Some common examples are Genesis 18 (and 21) in which three angels visit Abraham's tent, and another is Judges 13, each of which will be examined independently.

Genesis 18 - Point 1

In Genesis we must look at the following passages, the majority coming from Genesis 18:

  • Now the Lord appeared to him in the plains of Mamre, and he was sitting at the entrance of the tent when the day was hot. And he lifted his eyes and saw, and behold, three men were standing beside him, and he saw and he ran toward them from the entrance of the tent, and he prostrated himself to the ground. (Genesis 18:1-2)

  • And he said, "I will surely return to you at this time next year, and behold, your wife Sarah will have a son." And Sarah heard from the entrance of the tent, and it was behind him. (Genesis 18:10)

  • Is anything hidden from the Lord? At the appointed time, I will return to you, at this time next year and Sarah will have a son." (Genesis 18:14)

  • And the Lord remembered Sarah as He had said, and the Lord did to Sarah as He had spoken. (Genesis 21:1)

The context of Genesis 18:1-2 is right after Abraham performed his own circumcision, and right before God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. Three angels visit Abraham at this point, one of which tells him that Sarah will become pregnant at the same time next year. Some Christians claim that this particular angel was an incarnation of God (as the Second Person in the Trinity). They make this claim because of something interesting that this angel says - "I will surely return to you at this time next year, and behold, your wife Sarah will have a son." The angel speaks of returning in the first person (I will surely return to you, not the angel will surely return to you...), indicating that this angel is in fact an incarnation of God.

There are, however, a few issues with this, perhaps the main one being that God often has angels speaking in His Name when He seeks to relate some important information. See the following examples:

  • And the angel of the Lord said to her, "I will greatly multiply your seed, and it will not be counted for abundance." (Genesis 16:10)

  • And he said to him, "Behold I have favored you also as regards this matter, that I will not overturn the city that you have mentioned. (Genesis 19:21)

  • And he said, "Do not stretch forth your hand to the lad, nor do the slightest thing to him, for now I know that you are a God fearing man, and you did not withhold your son, your only one, from Me." (Genesis 22:12)

In the first example the angel promises something that it does not possess the power to perform (I will greatly multiply your seed), and we must therefore understand that the angel is speaking as an emissary of God and not that the angel is God Himself. This verse is a reference to the angel telling Hagar that she will give birth to Ishmael.

In the second example the angel responds to Lot's plea (19:20) and agrees not to destroy the small city to which Lot plans to escape to. In this verse the angel speaks of destroying the city in the first person, yet we see that when it came to destroying the city that it was destroyed by God:

And the Lord caused to rain down upon Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire, from the Lord, from heaven. (Genesis 19:24)

Now, even if we accept that the angel speaking in 18:10 and 18:14 was God, it cannot be that the angel speaking in 19:24 was also God, because both of these angels appeared to Abraham together. In other words, even if we accept the notion that God incarnated Himself we cannot accept the notion that He incarnated Himself as two different and simultaneous incarnations of the Second Person in the Trinity that appeared to Abraham together (along with a third angel).

As a brief tangent, some Christians point to the fact that 19:24 mentions "the Lord" twice. "And the Lord caused to rain... from the Lord..." This is taken to be a reference to two different Persons of the Trinity, the first of which "caused to rain down upon Sodom and Gomorrah," but which was sent "from the Lord, from heaven," which is a separate Person of the Trinity, who remained in Heaven while this was occurring. This indicates that the first "the Lord" refers to the Person that descended to earth, while the second one remained in Heaven while this was occurring.

What this overlooks is the simple reading of the verse, which simply speaks of God in the third person, which is a much plainer reading of the text. For example, it is possible, although a bit awkward, to say, "Daniel went to the store and Daniel bought eggs" while fully intending to speak about the one-and-only Daniel. It would be a much greater stretch of the imagination, "straining out a gnat," to describe this sentence as grammatically referring to two different aspects of Daniel, the first of which went to the store, and the second of which bought the eggs, yet ultimately both of which did each because Daniel exists in two different forms, each of which is him.

In the third example the angel says, "and you did not withhold your son, your only one, from Me." It is evident that Abraham was not intending on sacrificing Isaac to an angel, which as well makes it clear that the angel was speaking as an emissary of God. And just in case we have any doubt as to the identity of this angelic speaker, see the preceding verse:

And an angel of God called to him from heaven and said, "Abraham! Abraham!" And he said, "Here I am." (Genesis 22:11)

This verse explicitly tells us that this was an angel of God, not God in the form of an angel. If we are free to interpret "angel of God" as an implicit reference to "God in the form of an angel" then words cease to convey any inherent meaning in the first place. If "cat" means "dog," and if every time I say "cat" you assume that I'm referring to a "dog," then assigning meaning to words is useless.

Judges 13

The same kind of thing occurs in Judges 13 when an angel appears to Manoach and his wife:

And an angel of the Lord appeared to the woman, and said to her, "Behold now, you are barren, and have not borne; and you shall conceive and bear a son. (Judges 13:1)

Some Christians claim that this angel was as well an incarnation of God according to the following verse:

And Manoah said to his wife, "We shall surely die, because we have seen God." (Judges 13:22)

However, this overlooks two major points. The first point is the one that we have been discussing until now, which is that the Torah often refers to visions of angels as visions of God. The second point is explicitly in all of the verses in this chapter preceding verse 22 (the phrase "an angel of God" appears ten times), all of which repeatedly refer to this being as "an angel of God." In addition, several of these verses explicitly distinguish between God and the angel:

And God hearkened to the voice of Manoah; and the angel of God came again to the woman, and she was sitting in the field, and Manoah her husband was not with her. (Genesis 13:9)

And Manoah said to the angel of the Lord, "Let us take you in now, and prepare for you a kid goat." And the angel of the Lord said to Manoah, "If you take me in I will not eat of your bread, and if you will make a burnt-offering, you must offer it to the Lord;" For Manoah did not know that he was an angel of the Lord. (Genesis 13:15-16)

Some Christians argue, however, that Manoach and his wife only thought that it was an angel, but it was really God. Further, the only reason that the angel continues to accept being referred to as the angel of God is to avoid causing Manoach and his wife to mistakenly commit "idolatry in their hearts" by offering a sacrifice to an angel, which is the reason that it tells them to offer the sacrifice to God.

However, there are two issues with this as well. Manoach did not say that he intended to offer the goat to the angel as a sacrifice, but rather believing that it was a human being, like Abraham he offered to prepare food for him. Secondly, if the angel was really God, and God sought to reveal Himself as a Trinity, it would have simply said, "No, I am God in the form of an angel, so you may prepare the sacrifice to Me." For some odd reason God chose to keep his true Nature as a Trinity hidden, which is why I say that the apparent references to the Trinity in the Torah are implicit and not explicit, as Christians claim them to be.

They in fact are not references of any kind. Instead, Christians sought to find references in the Tanakh to the Trinity in order to authenticate and bolster their claims against its plain reading.

Instead, the Torah says exactly what it should have said if it was an angel, which is, "No, offer the sacrifice to God," i.e., not to me.

Genesis 18 - Point 2

There is another issue in Genesis 18 that prevents us from believing that it is a reference to God in the form of an angel. That is the word "and," which is used in different ways in the text of the Torah. What we often see in the verses is that the word "and," which is "ve" (ו) in Hebrew, is used first as an introduction to a particular set of events, and then switches to being used as subsequent steps in a sequence. The first place that we see this in the Torah is at the very beginning (no pun intended) in Genesis:

In the beginning of God's creation of the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was astonishingly empty, and darkness was on the face of the deep, and the spirit of God was hovering over the face of the water. (Genesis 1:1-2)

We see here that the word "ve," which I said means "and" in Hebrew, is translated as "Now the earth was..." It is translated this way because it introduces to us a set of events, and if you check the Hebrew you will see that it is in fact the word "ve," which is a word written as one letter, the letter "vav. (ו)" The second and third instances of this word in verses 1-2 are translated as "and," but they are describing the next steps in the sequence, they are describing "Now the earth was astonishingly empty" and what was already occurring at this stage in time.

Immediately following this the word "and" kicks into "subsequent steps" gear and begins describing what happens after verses 1 and 2 in chronological order:

And God said, "Let there be light," and there was light. And God saw the light that it was good, and God separated between the light and between the darkness. And God called the light day, and the darkness He called night, and it was evening and it was morning, one day. (Genesis 1:3-5)

We see above that the word "and," the same word "ve," introduces each next step in the sequence:

And God said... and there was light... and God saw the light... and God separated... And God called the light day, and the darkness He called night... and it was evening... and it was morning..."

This usage of the word "and" continues for the majority of the entire chapter.

This usage of the word "and" appears to be the same one in Genesis 18:1-2 when the angels visit Abraham:

Now the Lord appeared to him in the plains of Mamre, and he was sitting at the entrance of the tent when the day was hot. And he lifted his eyes and saw, and behold, three men were standing beside him, and he saw and he ran toward them from the entrance of the tent, and he prostrated himself to the ground. (Genesis 18:1-2)

We first have the word "ve" being translated as "Now" to introduce the set of events. For the record, this occurs again in Genesis 18:11 when the chapter introduces a new set of events separate from 18:1-10:

Now Abraham and Sarah were old, coming on in years; Sarah had ceased to have the way of the women. (Genesis 18:11)

Back to verses 1 and 2, we see that every instance of "and" is the next step in the sequence (except for the first, which introduces the set of events and doubles as the first event):


  1. Introduction/Event 1: Now the Lord appeared to him in the plains of Mamre, and he was sitting at the entrance of the tent when the day was hot.
  2. Event 2: And he lifted his eyes…
  3. Event 3: and saw…
  4. Event 4: and behold, three men were standing beside him…
  5. Event 5: and he saw…
  6. Event 6: and he ran toward them from the entrance of the tent…
  7. Event 7: and he prostrated himself to the ground.

There are two issues with the claim that the angel was God.

The first is the unnatural way, according to the belief that one of the angels was God, that the Torah reports that they were "standing beside him." The first verse says, "Now the Lord appeared to him..." If one of the angels in Event 4 was God in the form of a man, it should not have said, "three men were standing beside him," it should have said, "The Lord and two angels were standing beside him." The reason for this is that Event 1 says only that God appeared to him, but made no references to the angels. However, all appear to him together, which either means that all three appeared in Event 1 (even though the angels aren't mentioned), or that all three angels appeared to Abraham in Event 4 and that the Lord that appeared to him in Event 1 is not one of the angels!

Further, Event 4 says, "three men were standing beside him," not the three men, indicating that these men were altogether different ones than any of the beings that appeared in Event 1. For example, if I say "the eggs are cold," you know which eggs I'm referring to because you have already seen them, or I've already made reference to them. But if say "eggs are cold" you don't know which eggs I'm referring to.

If the angel was God in the form of a man the verse should have read something like the following:

"Now the Lord appeared to him in the plains of Mamre, and accompanying him were two angels, and he was sitting at the entrance of the tent when the day was hot. And he lifted his eyes and saw the three men were standing beside him, and he saw and he ran toward them from the entrance of the tent, and he prostrated himself to the ground."

More simply put, the word "and" in Event 4 indicates that something new happened, which is that the three men suddenly appeared to him in addition to God's appearing to him in Event 1.

Secondly, in Event 5 we get what seems like an incomplete thought, "and he saw." What did he see? His very next action was running towards the angels. Rashi explains according to the plain reading of the text that he saw that they were standing in one place away from him, i.e., that they were not coming any closer to him. He therefore runs toward them.

Further, we said that events 2 through 7 describe Event 1. However, we see that Abraham was in different locations in Event 1 and Event 6; in Event 1 he is "at the entrance of his tent," and in Event 6 he is away from the entrance of his tent near the angels, to whom he had to run given that they were standing some distance away. Event 6 can only be a description of Event 1 if it gives us more information about Event 1, but not if it contradicts Event 1. Take Genesis 1:1-2, which explain how the earth was "astonishingly empty."

In the beginning of God's creation of the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was astonishingly empty, and darkness was on the face of the deep, and the spirit of God was hovering over the face of the water. (Genesis 1:1-2)

If the verses said, "Now the earth was astonishingly empty, and darkness was on the face of the deep, and the people were building a tower," we would know that it was not really astonishingly empty. In this case verse 2 contradicts verse 1, indicating that the people built a tower after the earth had been astonishingly empty. And this is exactly the relationship between Event 1 and Event 6 in Genesis 18. When the Torah says that Abraham "ran toward them from the entrance of the tent," he did so only (a few steps) after God appeared to him at the entrance of the tent, indicating that neither of the angels or men were incarnations of God.

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