From Monotheism and Dualism to Trinity

Posted by on Apr 9, 2023

The concept of “trinity” is very problematic or at least polemic from Hebraic perspectives. It is true that Scripture refers to YHVH as Israel’s Father, Husband, or Lover. It is true that the “son of God” is an analogy for the people of Israel (“my son Israel”) and the messengers (“sons of God”). And it is true that the rabbis identified Ruach HaKodesh, as the Shechinah, which is the presence of the Eternal among His people.

Yet there is no Hebrew word for “trinity” aside of the modern Hebrew where such a word was created to denote the Christian theology on the godhead. The invented interpretation of trinity as “three persons” in one is also problematic, unless someone is able to define the term “person” in reference to the Creator of the universe.

The godhead as trinity

The term “godhead” was first introduced into the “New Testament” by John Wycliffe and later adopted in King James’ version of the Bible in Acts 17:29, Romans 1:20, and Colossians 2:9. This term translates three different Greek words. These Greek words can loosely be translated as “godhead”, “godhood”, “divinity”*, or “deity”. Instead, the Tanach uses the word Elohim, the word we read from the very first sentence in the Torah.

*The word “divinity” came into English from the Latin “diva” (goddess), which in turn came from the Farsi “div” (Farsi is the language of Persia). This Farsi word “div” simply means “demon”.

Renaissance painting by Jerónimo Cosida depicting God as a triple deity. Inner text reads in Latin: The Father is God; the Son is God; the Holy Spirit is God. They are all gods: the trinity.

Renaissance painting by Jerónimo Cosida depicting God as a triple deity. Inner text reads in Latin: The Father is God; the Son is God; the Holy Spirit is God. They are all gods: the trinity.

From Persia one more thing came: Zoroastrianism. Zoroastrianism is a dualistic system founded by the Persian prophet Zarathustra (circa 628-551 BC). He was the first to introduce the concept of dualism, according to which the one nature of the Deity is divided into two opposing powers: good and bad. The good and bad deities fight each other, but at the end the good one will prevail. This new theology was adopted by the Persian King Cyrus (559-530) and became the official religion of the Persian Empire. The dualism did not cease with the Persian Empire though. It entered the Greco-Roman mind-set, culture, and mythology.

Marcion of Sinope was an early Christian theologian who published the earliest collection of the New Testament. Marcion considered himself a follower of Paul, whom he believed to have been the only true apostle. Studying the letters of Paul, Marcion came to the conclusion that the “New Testament” is incompatible with the “Old Testament”. Based on Paul’s teachings, Marcion concluded that the vengeful God of the “Old Testament” was a different God from the loving God of the “New Testament”. This doctrine was called Marcionism. Marcion was denounced by the Church as a heretic, but his teaching lived on, although in a different form of dualism.

This new form of Marcionism is derived from the interpretation of certain passages of the “New Testament”, such as Joh 12:31, Joh 14:30, Joh 16:11, and Eph 2:2. According to this variant of the dualistic Marcionism, there are two rulers of the world: one who created and rules the universe and another one who rules this world. In the Christian religion, the other one is the satan.

Note: The “trinitarian” formula (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit) occurs only in Mat 28:19 and 1John 5:7-8. But it cannot be found in the ancient Hebrew text of Matthew aka Shem-Tov Hebrew Gospel, nor can it be found in the earlies Greek manuscripts of 1John.

But it was not until the beginning of the third century that a Greek thinker named Tertullian (Carthaginian theologian whose writing influenced early Christian theology) coined the word “trinity”, which later was adopted by the Church. “Trinity” (Latin: trinitas, literally “triad”) was coined in the third century but was known in the pagan religions for centuries as “triad” of gods.

Thus, it will be clear to the reader that the perception of “trinity” is expressed by the number three, as the pagans worshiped three chief gods among many, hence, triads of gods. In Egypt the trinity was Osiris (husband), Isis (wife), and Horus (son); in Babylon: Nimrod (husband), Semiramis (wife), and the god-incarnate son Tammuz (also called Baal, Ashtoreth and Tammuz); the Greek trinity: Zeus (father), Athena (wife), Apollo (sun-god); the Roman trinity: Jupiter (father), Juno (wife), Minerva (daughter); the Hindu trinity: Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, etc. In some of these mythologies there is more than one trinity or triad.

Egyptian trinity. Osiris, Isis, and Horus. Louvre Museum, Paris.

Egyptian trinity. Osiris, Isis, and Horus. Louvre Museum, Paris.

“Faith did not change Rome; Rome changed the faith”. Navah

The concept of “trinity” as a triad of gods entered into the Christianity as the “Holy Trinity”. According to this concept legalized in the Nicaean Council of the Church, “godhead” is comprised of three distinctive but equal in power gods: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. They are three distinctive gods yet one. In some Christian denominations the three gods in the “trinity” are also called “three persons” in one. Put in simple words, “trinity” is like a heavenly council of three deities, three gods.

The servant of YHVH

Chapters 40-48 of Isaiah contrasts between YHVH and the graven images the nations of the world have created, and between Israel and the heathen. In Isa 41:8, the term “My servant” was applied to the nation of Israel, which had been chosen for the service,

But you, Israel, are My servant, Ya’akov, whom I have chosen, the seed of Avraham My friend, (Isa 41:8)

The address turns to Israel as “My servant” whom YHVH had chosen at the time when Avraham was chosen. This calling of Abraham was the furthest beginning point of the existence of Israel as the covenant nation, which was pre-existent in him by virtue of the counsel of YHVH.

And when YHVH called Avraham for service as “My servant”, the nation that would come into existence from him, also received the name “My servant”. This call in Isaiah towards Israel to become the servant of YHVH echoes the intimate relation in which the Creator had placed Himself towards Israel, and Israel towards Him reestablished in the Covenant at Mount Sinai, in which it was stated, “I am Yehovah your Elohim”.

But “My servant” here in Isa 42:1-4 is distinct from “My servant Israel” in Isaiah 41,

See, My servant whom I uphold, My chosen in whom My soul delights. I have put My Breath upon him, he shall make the right to go forth to the nations. (Isa 42:1)

This servant is distinct from the servant in Isaiah 41, because he has so strong personal features that it is hard to be merely intended as a collective address to an entire nation. Nor can Isaiah himself be intended as such, for what is said of this servant of YHVH goes beyond what Isaiah or any prophet was ever called to do. (See also Isaiah 11:2-4). We read further,

He does not cry out, nor lifts up, nor causes his voice to be heard in the street. A bruised reed he shall not break and smoking flax he does not quench. He shall make the right to go forth according to the truth. He shall not fail nor be crushed, until he has established the right in the earth, and the isles shall wait for his instruction. (Isa 42:2-4)

The words of YHVH now address the servant himself, who has been given an exalted position by virtue of the infinite authority of the Caller. We keep on reading,

I, Yehovah, have called you in righteousness, and I strengthen your hand and guard You, and give You for a covenant to a people, for a light to the nations, to open blind eyes, to bring out prisoners from the prison, those who sit in darkness from the prison house. (Isa 42:6-7)

“My servant” in Isaiah 42 must therefore be a future servant to whom YHVH gave a supernal authority to accomplish his mission: a mission no human being was and is able to accomplish. This understanding of the servant of YHVH is thus supported and stated in the Targum Jonathan of Isaiah (the Aramaic paraphrase of the Tanach), where the translation of the prophecy commences thus: Ha avdi meshicha.  

הָא עַבְדִי מְשִׁיחָא אֶקְרְבִינֵהּ בְּחִירִי דְאִתְרְעֵי בֵּיהּ מֵימְרִי אֶתֵּן רוּחָא דְקוּדְשִׁי עֲלוֹהִי דִינִין לְעַמְמִין יְגַלֵי:

Behold, my servant, the Messiah, whom I bring, my chosen in whom one delights: as for my Word, I will put my Holy Spirit upon him; he shall reveal my judgment unto the nations. (Targum Jonathan on Isaiah 42:1)

Note: The Aramaic word meshicha is the equivalent of the Hebrew mashiach, which means “anointed”, messiah.

With the same breath, however, while YHVH pledges His Name and glory, He makes it very clear that His servant must not be considered another ruler or authority equal to Him. Scripture goes on to say,

I am Yehovah, that is My Name, and My glory I do not give to another, nor My praise to graven images. (Isa 42:8)

With this strong statement YHVH Elohim affirms how truly He stands alone in this world, and His power, and His glory He has not given to anyone, not even to His servant He just introduced in Isaiah 42. He to whom the Name Yehovah belongs does not permit the honor and glory due to Him only to be permanently transferred to anyone, much less to any images, whether they are carved in stone or in mind. YHVH has therefore made the solemn declaration that serves the same purpose as an oath that He alone is the Sovereign of the universe, He and He alone to the exclusion of anyone else.

There is no one like YHVH

Before the creation, YHVH was Yachid, which means the only one, no one else, eternal “singularity”. YHVH existed eternally and alone, as His Name denotes eternity. The exclusive term Yachid is best seen in the following statement,

See now that I, even I, am He, and there is no god with Me; I kill, and I make alive; I have wounded, and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of My hand. (Deu 32:39)

The sages teach that the Creator is a perfect unity without any composition and plurality at all. Hence, His Essence and Being are all absolutely One, without any composition. He is completely One and Unique. He is the absolutely One.

After the creation, however, He became Echad, One. By becoming Echad, He and His creation came together in unity. After YHVH created all visible and invisible things in the space of time, He exists as One or united with His creation (He is Echad); Echad in this sense is an inclusive term, as seen in Deuteronomy 6.

Listen up, Israel! Yehovah our Elohim, Yehovah is One! (Deu 6:4)

Therefore, we understand that YHVH Yachid is exclusive, there is no one else but Him, while YHVH Echad is inclusive, He is united with His creation. Thus, from being the only exclusive One, Yachid (One and only One), who existed alone to the exclusion of anything and anyone, He became Echad, united with His creation in oneness, as the unifying force in all of creation. Thus, the creation was elevated to being oneness with the Creator.

But I am Yehovah your Elohim since the land of Egypt, and no elohim besides Me you shall know, for there is no savior* besides Me. (Hos 13:4)

*The Hebrew word is מוֹשִׁיעַ, moshia. It is related to the word יָשַׁע yasha, which means to save, to deliver. The Hebrew name Yehoshua, which means “Yehovah saves”, is derived from this verb.

With this solemn affirmation, YHVH draws again the unchallenged by anyone self-attestation to Israel and to the nations of the world that from Egypt on Israel has known no one else, no other savior other than Him. In Egypt he saved them and in the desert of Sinai He knew them and in love He adopted them, so that all will know that there is no one else but Him.

Aside of Mosheh, Isaiah was a unparalleled prophet whom YHVH chose to reveal the Messianic age. But, He also chose Isaiah through whom the following messages were given.

And to whom would you liken Elohim? And what likeness would you compare to Him? (Isa 40:18) And to whom then do you liken Me, or to whom am I compared? (Isa 40:25) I am Yehovah, and there is none else. There is no Elohim besides Me. I gird you, though you have not known Me, so that they know from the rising of the sun to its setting that there is none but Me. I am Yehovah, and there is none else. I form light and create darkness. I make peace and create evil. I, Yehovah, do all these. (Isa 45:5-7) I am Yehovah, and there is none else. (Isa 45:18) And there is no Elohim besides Me, a righteous El and a Savior, there is none besides Me. Turn to Me and be saved, all you ends of the earth! For I am El, and there is none else. (Isa 45:21-22) … I am El, and there is no one else – Elohim, and there is no one like Me. (Isa 46:9) I am He, I am the First, I am also the Last*. (Isa 48:12)

*This has always been known to represent that YHVH was the first and the last letter of the Hebrew language and everything in between.

… Come near to Me, hear this: I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; from the time that it was, I was there. … (Isa 48:13-16)

Up to this point in Isaiah YHVH is speaking. But who is it that now is saying,

And now the Master Yehovah has sent me, and His Ruach. (Isa 48:16)

This is difficult because there is an intermingling of messages here. The one who said this did not say “from the time that it was, I was there”. The majority of the commentators (see Rashi on Isaiah 48:16 and Ibn Ezra) assume that these are the words Isaiah is saying coming forward in the prophecy. We will explain that this is not the only way to interpret this verse.

Although it is true that since Deuteronomy the prophets spoke the words of Elohim, we have the reason to believe that the mysterious way in which the words of YHVH suddenly stop at “I was there” (Isa 48:16) and then continue in Isa 48:17, “Thus said Yehovah, your Redeemer…”, may indicate that these are the words of “My servant” in Isa 42:1, as we argued above.

But there is no injustice done to the text, if we agree or disagree with Rashi and Ibn Ezra that the prophet is speaking here in Ruach of YHVH. That the speaking one, who said, “the Master Yehovah has sent me”, is the prophet Isaiah is further suggested in what follows in the next chapter (see Isa 49:1-6). Here we wanted to introduce to the reader an alternative reading of Isaiah as we do justice to both interpretations and in order to make a point to which we now turn.

The First Commandment of all

Thou shalt have no other gods before me. (Exo 20:3 JPS)

Reading such a translation as the above, it is impossible to interpret the First Statement of the Covenant to mean “other gods” in a sense of “gods other than I”, since it will suppose that there are “gods” along with the Creator. But rather, the Hebrew אֱלֹהִים אִחֵרִיםelohim acheirim, is to be interpreted to mean “gods of the others”, that is to say, “the gods of the idol worshippers”: their carved images.

The other key Hebrew word which we will translate literally is the word פָּנִים paniym. In JPS, it is translated as “Me” referring to YHVH Elohim, hence “before Me”, but it literally means “face”, the Face of YHVH.

But the Hebrew word which we want to draw the attention on is the preposition עַל al. It is translated in JPS and KJV as “before”, but this is not the literal meaning of this Hebrew word. The word עַל al has the meaning of above, over, upon, on.

With that said, we read the First Statement thus,

I am Yehovah your Elohim, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. There shall not be to yourself no other elohim on My Face(Exo 20:2-3)

Do we see the difference? Not yet? These words themselves beg for an explanation.

The golden calf mask

Mosheh went up the mountain to receive the Covenant of YHVH engraved on stone. When the people assumed that Mosheh delayed returning to the camp, they gathered to Aharon to make “elohim” to bring them to the Land. Aharon and the people made a molten calf and said,

This is your Elohim, Israel, who brought you out of the land of Egypt!

And Aharon built an altar before the golden calf and uttered aloud,

Tomorrow is a festival to Yehovah(Exo 32:4-5)

And that was the people’s sin: they defined the eternal YHVH as “this”, namely, a thing. Defining the Sovereign of the universe as an object, whether physical or mental, is the beginning of idolatry.

It is remarkable to note here that the Torah refers to the golden calf as מַסֵּכָה maseichah, which in Hebrew means a molten image. That molten image, the people dedicated to the Creator, served as a covering or a mask upon the Face of YHVH Elohim. 

Such a mask placed on the Face of YHVH can be a material effigy worshipped instead of Him, but it can also be any idea of Him acting like a perfect embodiment of a concept, or a mental image created in the human consciousness. In other words, an idol can be any doctrine put on His Face (so to speak) that masks what the Creator has said about Himself.

The true God vs the triune god

Thus, an idol is not limited only to the imaginary pagan “gods” or graven images, but as in the case of the golden calf, it can also be a false mental image of the true and only Elohim created by man-made conceptual and abstract philosophy, i.e., religion.

And if this line of thought is correct, then we can read the command of YHVH thus, I am Yehovah your Elohim. You shall put no false images on My Face and say this is your Elohim.

With the above in mind, we may now better understand the repeated  statements in Isaiah.

Reading is an experience that takes place in time. Hence, the second, third, and fourth time a reader encounters a given phrase, such as “there is none besides Me” within a few chapters of the same prophecy, should be assumed to have the same effect over the reader. The question, then, is how this repetition affects the reader, and what message is conveyed with such a repetition of a given phrase.

When we reflect on what we have written above, we will find that a solid foundation is thus established for the conclusion of our study. We make this statement in accordance with what the prophet Isaiah has written about uniqueness of the Creator.

For when these statements are read in context, it is inevitable for a Hebrew reader to associate them with the uniqueness and exclusiveness of the eternal Elohim; exclusiveness which is applied even to His Servant, the Messenger of His Face, the Metatron. We should not therefore err and conclude that certain theologians are right in their mind to speak of the so-called “continuous revelation” that the alleged trinitarian formula in the “New Testament” explains what had not been said in the “Old Testament”. For the prophet Amos wrote the words of the Lord,  

For the Lord Yehovah does nothing unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets. (Amo 3:7)

It is inconceivable therefore to assume that the greatest prophet Mosheh had somehow missed to mention before Israel the “trinitarian” nature of the Creator with whom he spoke mouth to mouth and face to face; or even worse, that YHVH had hidden His “trinity” from His people but revealed it to the pagan Greeks and Romans. For it is written,

Since the beginning of the world, they have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, nor has the eye seen any Elohim besides You (Isa 64:4)

It should not occur to us and no one in his right mind should assume that there is a deity other than YHVH. For if there is a human being who has ever known the Oneness of the Creator to perceive it by the ear or by the eye, that was Mosheh. He was the only human who had ever known the Creator so closely, to speak with Him mouth to mouth and face to face, yet, he simply said, “Listen up, Israel, YHVH is one!”

It thus behooves each one of us to acquire as much knowledge and insight into the matter of the hidden idolatry that has crept into the original faith, which Mosheh our teacher has given us: “YHVH is one!”

Knowledge known to only a few will die out. If you feel blessed by these teachings of Time of Reckoning Ministry, help spread the word!

May we merit seeing the coming of our Mashiach speedily in our days!


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