In today’s article, we will be talking about Yahweh as the one true God, and how I believe this basic Bible truth has become muddled by tradition and orthodoxy.
So to begin with, let me start by saying that I believe that the Bible reveals that there is only one true God, Yahweh, the Father, sole Creator and Maintainer of all that exists. He is the supreme authority of all people. He alone possesses inherent immortality, and has always existed. There is no other God to whom praise, honor, and glory is due.
Deuteronomy 4:35, 39 To you it was shown that you might know that Yahweh, He is God; there is no other besides Him. … “Know therefore today, and take it to your heart, that Yahweh, He is God in heaven above and on the earth below; there is no other.
One of the primary features of Jewish culture revolves around the reciting of what is known as the Shema. The Shema is based on a very familiar passage to most believers.
Deuteronomy 6:4-5 “Hear, O Israel! Yahweh is our God, Yahweh is one! “You shall love Yahweh your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”
The Shema has been the primary defining statement of the Hebrew people since it was revealed to them. Shema means “hear” and focuses on the primary declaration that Yahweh is one, or is the only God, or is singular in essence. All of these meanings revolve around the idea that there is only one God. Faithful Jews recite the Shema twice a day, and it is traditional for parents to teach their children to say it before they go to sleep at night. It is such an important Hebraic belief that it is also an ideal for Jews to say the Shema as their last words.
This fierce monotheism is what has distinctly set apart the Hebrew people since God first revealed himself to Abraham in approximately 2000 BC. The Babylonian, Egyptian, and Eastern religions (and later the Greeks and the Romans) have all been polytheistic religions, filled with hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of gods. The Hebrews were first and unique in their strict rejection of all other gods but one.
Yeshua himself confirms the importance of this concept of one God through the Shema, as well.
Mark 12:28-29 One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that [Yeshua] had answered them well, asked Him, “What commandment is the foremost of all?” Yeshua answered, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! Yahweh our God, Yahweh is one…’
Now, here are some other verses confirming the unique authority of one God over all.
Isaiah 44:6, 8 “Thus says Yahweh, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, Yahweh of hosts: ‘I am the first and I am the last, And there is no God besides Me. … ‘Do not tremble and do not be afraid; Have I not long since announced it to you and declared it? And you are My witnesses. Is there any God besides Me, Or is there any other Rock? I know of none.'”
Isaiah 46:9-10 “Remember the former things long past, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, ‘My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure’…”
As would be expected, we find this same emphasis on one God in the New Testament writings.
1 Corinthians 8:4-6 Therefore concerning the eating of things sacrificed to idols, we know that there is no such thing as an idol in the world, and that there is no God but one. For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords, yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him…
1 Timothy 1:17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
1 Timothy 2:5 For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Messiah Yeshua,
So, if this has been the historical understanding of the nature of God as being singular, how is it that over the centuries after Messiah, a concept known as the trinity came about? The philosophy of a trinity suggests that the being we call “God” is a singular entity made up of three “persons”: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. In this view, all three have co-existed for all eternity, and all are co-equal with one another and somehow combine to form one God. This very abstract and confusing definition of God’s essence is generally defended by saying that the nature of God is incomprehensible to our human understanding.
While I would agree that God’s ways can be incomprehensible to us as humans, we always need to focus on what the Bible actually reveals about God, not invent how we think God should be, and then try to fit that idea back into the Bible. This involves reading what the Bible says about God, doing our best to understand the literary, cultural, and historical context, and then lining up our ideas with the consistent patterns found throughout Scripture. Therefore, I have come to believe that the concept of a trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as one God with three eternal persons) is a philosophical misinterpretation of men that was devised hundreds of years after the close of the inspired record of God’s dealings with the Israelite people.
Now, before you write me off as a cultist or assign to me some other unfounded judgment, please consider something very basic about what I am presenting here. One of the most glaring demonstrations of how the concept of the trinity is a tradition invented by men is that it was not even an “official” doctrine of Christianity until approximately three to four hundred years after Messiah lived. Prior to the time of its acceptance, there are only sparse references among a few of what we know as the “church fathers” to a vague trinitarian formula that was to become more firmly defined at this later time.
Three to four hundred years is a longer period of time than it has been for us Americans since the revolutionary war. So if that’s the case, what were the masses of Christians believing about God for all of that time, since they never even heard of a trinity concept? Unfortunately, the early leaders of that time were approaching the idea of God from thinking that was based on Greek philosophy, and not from the Hebraic cultural and historical perspective of the Bible.
To refine this man-made definition of the trinity, many councils were held in the fourth century because there was no firm understanding of this view among the various groups of early Christian leaders. And the establishment of this view was not immediate; it was only after hundreds of years beyond this point that it ultimately spread to become the “orthodox” (established and approved) view, yet it still continued to be refined through further councils, even into the middle ages. All of this debate and definition over such a long period of time does not lead one to conclude this is a clearly revealed truth in the Bible, but rather a manufactured idea of men trying to explain God from a human point of view, the very thing God says is impossible.
Isaiah 55:8-9 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.”
Today, the concept of the trinity is so widely accepted it is considered a non-negotiable core doctrine of Christianity. In almost all Christian churches, if one does not accept this view, one is not considered a Christian. However, reviewing the history of debates over the doctrine it is clear that the trinity is not a self-evident concept in the Bible.
Based on the Hebrew culture and beliefs from which the Bible came forth, the trinity is not only inconsistent, but in direct contradiction with the Hebraic understanding of God being one, as evidenced through the importance and constant recitation of the Shema. The Hebrew understanding of the nature of God has always held to the absolute oneness or unity of God, with no plurality in essence in any way.
Another correlation, at least culturally, is the fact that the other major Abrahamic religion, Islam, also attests to the absolute oneness of God (Allah). According to their own writings, this simple monotheism is the most important creedal belief in Islam. To be clear, I am not here endorsing or validating Islam; I simply mention it to highlight the fact that both of the religions springing from Abrahamic lineage, Judaism and Islam, have this uncompromising view of absolute and singular monotheism which to me is a testament to its historical authenticity. Only Christianity (and only hundreds of years after the fact, so to speak) has claimed a combination of monotheism and plurality, something that differs from the cultural bedrock of these original, near-eastern traditions. The monotheism of Abraham should be the view of those who claim to be Abraham’s sons, a discussion we will have in a future episode.
The trinity was not a concept of God maintained by any ancient Hebrews throughout their recorded history, including the disciples and Yeshua himself. If it was that important of a doctrine between orthodoxy and heresy, then I believe Yeshua would have taught it clearly so that there would not need to be multiple councils over hundreds of years later to define it.
Now that I have stated my initial disagreement with the trinitarian view, I would like to provide some insight into a little-known aspect of Jewish culture that, to my way of thinking, is a much simpler way of understanding the person and work of Yeshua and the nature of Yahweh God. It pulls together and reinforces other passages throughout the Bible helping us to approximate how the ancient Hebrew mindset would most readily have understood these passages that have led to trinitarian thinking.
The passages that cause confusion about the nature of God can be explained in other ways that fit better with the overall context, patterns, and message of the Bible. When reading English versions of ancient semitic documents with our Western mindset and making declarations of absolutism and orthodoxy, we are drifting into areas of pride and tradition that may be interfering with our understanding of what the message of the Bible is really all about. Rather, if we can look up from our creeds and councils long enough to expand our understanding of the ancient semitic culture rather than Greek philosophy, we may find some simplified answers to some of the deep questions we are seeking to resolve.
For me, as I began to dive really deeply into the trinitarian traditions, I was refreshed when I discovered something that I had never been taught in my Christian faith that I’d like to share with you now. It is an ancient cultural concept which the Hebrews labeled as shaliach in Hebrew; in English, we would call it the concept of agency, or one who is sent.
Agency is the historical near-eastern concept that a designated agent is fully vested with the authority of the one who sent them, to the extent that the agent is considered equivalent to the sender. This was a common understanding in the ancient societies of the near east represented in writings that have survived down to our present age. In fact, we see something similar in our culture today in the legal realm. Some modern examples of this would be:
- A real estate agent represents a buyer or seller as if they were that person themselves
- A sales agent represents the interests of a company towards buyers
- A police officer is an agent of the law allowing him to enforce it
- A lawyer is an agent of the person they represent in court
In a similar way, a misunderstanding of this concept of agency has led to belief in Yeshua as being God himself, when Yeshua explained time and time again he was God’s designated agent, sent by God.
While there are many biblical examples of this concept, a few of the more familiar examples of agency can be illustrated with the stories of Joseph, Moses, and then also with Yeshua.
Joseph as an agent of Pharaoh
Genesis 41:39-44 So Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has informed you of all this, there is no one so discerning and wise as you are. “You shall be over my house, and according to your command all my people shall do homage; only in the throne I will be greater than you.” Pharaoh said to Joseph, “See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.” Then Pharaoh took off his signet ring from his hand and put it on Joseph’s hand and clothed him in garments of fine linen and put the gold necklace around his neck. He had him ride in his second chariot; and they proclaimed before him, “Bow the knee!” And he set him over all the land of Egypt. Moreover, Pharaoh said to Joseph, “[Though] I am Pharaoh, yet without your permission no one shall raise his hand or foot in all the land of Egypt.”
Genesis 44:18 Then Judah approached him, and said, “Oh my lord, may your servant please speak a word in my lord’s ears, and do not be angry with your servant; for you are equal to Pharaoh.
Moses as God’s agent
Exodus 3:10 “Therefore, come now, and I will send you to Pharaoh, so that you may bring My people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt.”
Exodus 7:1 Then Yahweh said to Moses, “See, I make you [as] God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet.
God’s son as the agent of God
John 12:49 “For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak.”
John 5:22-23 “For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son, so that all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.”
John 14:8-9 Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Yeshua said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?
So we can see this concept of agency and full representation comes from the culture of the Bible itself, and aligns with the patterns, principles, and standards of torah while enriching our understanding of these, and many other, passages. By contrast, the trinity is a foreign and unnatural concept to the biblical culture, and causes division over man-made philosophical definitions in order to essentially shoe-horn it into scriptural passages.
In my view, how most run-of-the-mill Christians, not theologians, view the trinity being one God is actually a type of practical modalism. I guess I should say, this is how it worked for me since I was raised within the trinitarian tradition. Modalism is the belief that there is only one God who has revealed himself in different ways called modes, faces, or aspects. He has represented himself throughout most of the Bible as Yahweh, but he has also revealed himself as Jesus, and sometimes he appears as the Spirit. Modalism says this is not three different “persons,” just three different ways the one God has revealed himself. I say that this is a type of practical modalism, because this is how a trinitarian belief shakes out in practice; there can only typically be an emphasis on God as the Father, God as the Son, or God as the Spirit at any one time.
However, when viewed through the lens of the historical Hebrew culture, these kinds of distinctions are not necessary. Is it challenging to untangle some of these entrenched views? Absolutely, but it is not impossible. Once I began to see and understand the message of the entire Bible as a cohesive whole, the overwhelming message of the Bible through its literary, cultural and historical basis is that there is only one true God, Yahweh, the Father, God Almighty, the Creator of all, and that he alone is the ultimate authority or King over all.
2 Kings 19:15 Hezekiah prayed before Yahweh and said, “O Yahweh, the God of Israel, who are enthroned above the cherubim, You are the God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth.
I know at this point, many of you who have been brought up in the trinitarian tradition will call to mind specific verses that are said to attest to Yeshua’s divinity. That’s understandable, but please know that I would not make a claim against the trinitarian view without having looked at all of the evidence closely. Remember, I was raised with a trinitarian world view, so I totally understand how these types of arguments that I am providing here can appear jaded, or even heretical. I was brought up to believe that if you didn’t believe in the trinity, you were most likely involved in some sort of cult. I can assure you I do not claim allegiance to any one organization or denomination, and I seek to rely only on what I believe God has brought to my attention within his Word.
- I believe the Bible teaches there is only one true God. He is known as Yahweh, Almighty God, and the Father, among other names.
- The Shema of Judaism practiced to this day is the echo of the monotheism of Abraham which was even validated by Yeshua himself. This concept of only one God separates a biblical worldview from most of the other world religions besides Judaism and Islam, demonstrating how the Abrahamic tradition was unique in its day.
- I believe that the trinitarian view was a forced philosophical imposition on the revelation of God within his torah, or his Word, that took centuries to be established and accepted by the Christian people. Instead, the Hebrew concept of shaliach or agency more clearly represents the relationship of Yeshua with his Father, and is reinforced by other similar Bible passages involving Joseph, Moses and Pharoah.
- In essence, I believe the Bible reveals that the holy Spirit is represented as the life-giving influence of Yahweh God himself, and in the New Testament Yeshua is clearly identified as the divinely born son of God, not God himself.
- The nature of God is essential to understanding the core principles of the Bible which we discuss here each week, as his Kingdom, the primary emphasis of the whole Bible, is based upon the fact that Yahweh God is the ultimate King over all.
I’m sure that what I have mentioned here raises lots of questions and objections among those of you who have also been taught about the trinitarian world view. While I cannot address every trinitarian verse in the course of these podcasts, I will provide some resources in the show notes for those who would like to look more deeply into specific texts and verses that other, more scholarly folks than me have analyzed so they can draw their own conclusions. For what it’s worth, I do promise we will look more closely at what I believe the Bible reveals about Yeshua (and also the holy Spirit) in the next few upcoming podcasts. Hopefully some of those discussions will also provide you some further insights into my thinking about the nature of God. So, if you feel differently about this topic, I encourage you to continue to hear me out through those discussions, as well.
And I leave you today with one final verse that I believe encapsulates what I’ve tried with the best of my ability to express here today:
John 17:3 – [Yeshua speaking] “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Yeshua Messiah whom You have sent.”
Other helpful sites and resources regarding monotheism of the whole Bible:
Trinity Delusion | TrinityDelusion.net
What is a Biblical Monotarian – The Biblical Monotarian (Copyright 2023)
Why Biblical Unitarianism? | BiblicalUnitarian.com
Trinities – Theories about the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
The UCA Affirmation – Unitarian Christian Alliance
Remember, there is a Core of the Bible virtual study group that is hosted through the Marco Polo video chat app. It is designed to discuss the topics that we cover each week and to help people with responses to questions that may come up. If you are interested in joining the discussion, simply download the free Marco Polo app and email me a request to join the group at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will be happy to send you a link to join the virtual Bible study group. You can also feel free to email me any of your thoughts or comments there, as well.