A little more than a week ago, Answers in Genesis, a ministry I love, promote, financially support, and am blessed by, posted The Dangers of the Hebrew Roots Movement. Please read the previous posts in the series, as I am answering the allegations one by one.
Some have gone so far as to challenge orthodox Christian beliefs such as the Trinity and even the deity of Jesus Christ.
The author is right in that some have gone this far. He is right in that it is only some, a minority, a fringe element, and not the majority of Hebrew Roots believers. These two issues are related for Hebrew Roots believers, and here I will attempt to boil it down.
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! NKJV, NIV, Hebrew Bible in English
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord. KJV
“One” is in Hebrew, Strong’s H259, echad, the numeral one; as an adjective also with the meaning of each, every, only, once, alone, and variations thereof. An alternate perfectly acceptable translation of the Hebrew of this verse is,
“Hear, O Israel: YHVH is God, YHVH alone is God.”
The message of the Scripture is clear: in contrast to the polytheistic paganism which was the dominant religion of the ancient world, stood first Abraham and from him, Israel, proclaiming monotheism: that there was in fact only one God, the Creator of heaven and earth, whose personal name Yehovah (יהוה or YHVH) means, I AM THE ETERNAL AND SELF- EXISTANT ONE. The gods of polytheism are false gods, and to afford them fear or worship is to engage in idolatry.
The Hebraic objection then, is that Christianity elevated two other beings to the status of deity, by proclaiming God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. The objection to trinitarianism is that three “gods” violates the Shema, Scripture’s clear and foundational proclamation of the unity or singleness, uniqueness, of YHVH Creator of heaven and earth.
However, the objection is based on a misunderstanding, which the Torah itself clears up. In trinitarianism, God is one God existing in three persons, not as three separate beings: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Trinitarians do not believe that God is three separate beings. They fully accept the Shema, and merely believe that the One God, for purposes and wisdom of His own, has chosen to manifest Himself to men in three manifestations: as Father, as Son – specifically to be Messiah for mankind – and as Spirit. The first passage which seems to clearly indicate a plurality of nature for God the Creator of heaven and earth, is in Gen 1:26:
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
Yes, those are plural pronouns in Hebrew. Even the Hebrew word for “Creator God” used in the opening chapters of Genesis and throughout Torah, Elohiym, is a plural word. So in the foundational books of the Bible, the Torah, there seems to be a contradiction. The plural grammar of Gen 1:26 leads one in the trinitarian direction, while the grammar of Deu 6:4, the Shema, leads one in the unitarian direction. However, we know that there can be no real contradiction (truth does not contradict), and if all we can see is the contradiction, then we have not yet understood the message of Scripture aright.
To understand how Torah itself clears up the seeming contradiction, we have to understand the Scriptural teaching tool of natural pictures. Jesus made heavy use of this tool by teaching us many things about spiritual truths using parables. He often began a parable by saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like …” and then proceeded to tell a story about seeds, crops, harvests, landowners, fathers and sons, or some other aspect of normal human existence or the natural world with which His audience was well aware. That picture in the natural world was meant to teach us something about the spiritual world or God or the kingdom of heaven that we might not otherwise understand.
In Gen 1:26, the natural picture is man. God created man in His own image. By understanding man as a natural picture, we can better understand something about God that we could not otherwise see and understand. Going back to Deu 6 and the foundational statement about God that defines for us His nature:
“Hear, O Israel: YHVH is God, YHVH alone is God! You shall love YHVH your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” Deu 6:4-5
Now why did the Lord instruct man to love Him, repeated three times in this way? He did not just say, love Me with all you are, although that is the message we take away from this verse. He said, love Me with all your 1) heart, 2) soul, and 3) strength.
Because of Scriptures which indicate that there is an eternal and immaterial part to man which lived on after the body died, the Hebrews never doubted that there was more to the nature of man than the body. Jesus, in fact, when quoting Deu 6:4-5 in answer to a question that was asked of Him, said: ‘And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength’ (Mar 12:30), indicating that the mind of man was part of this nature of man mix.
Paul repeated the theme begun in Deuteronomy when he said in one of his letters:
Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 The 5:23
So we see that the Torah and the Bible teaches that the nature of man is in three parts. He is an eternal spirit, who possesses a soul consisting of the mind, will, and emotions – the personality – and the spirit + soul inhabits the body as a house. The spirit is of the spiritual world, the body is of the natural world, and the soul is the interface between the two, which allows a spiritual being such as we are to function in the natural world.
When Deu 6:5 says, Love YHVH your God with all your heart, mind, and strength, that is Torah’s way of saying, Love God with all you are: your 1) heart (your eternal spirit), your 2) mind (your soul consisting of your mind, will, and emotions; your personality), and your 3) strength (your body). The Torah, upon which every other biblical doctrine is founded, is teaching us about the triune nature of man.
So then I myself and all other humans are triune beings, but no one would come up to me and tell me that my body did not represent me, or that my mind did not represent me, or that my spirit did not represent me. I am a single, unique, and unified person, and all my parts are thoroughly integrated so as to express my existence, my individuality and my personhood in the world.
This is the natural picture of man, something that we are very familiar with, which teaches us about the nature of God who we cannot see and who we cannot otherwise understand. God, admittedly, is far too great for our human finite minds to grasp. But if man is the natural picture which is meant to reveal something about God, might not the Holy Spirit roughly represent the Spirit of God, the heart of God; might not God the Father, YHVH, roughly represent the soul or mind or will or personality of God – please, I am speaking very generally here and am in no way saying this is the limit of God! – and might not Yeshua, Jesus, roughly represent the body of God, or perhaps more accurately, God in bodily form so that He can interact with us in this limited natural world?
Of course man as a natural picture does not reveal everything about God. But he reveals enough about God so that what we see in the Scriptures concerning God — physical manifestations of God in the Old Testament; clear language and grammar referring to the Holy Spirit as God; Jesus in the Gospels and New Testament receiving worship as God — allows us to understand the triune nature of God as completely compatible with His unity and singularity and uniqueness as the Shema in Deu 6:4-5 clearly teaches.
“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” Rev 1:8
If one were to continue reading in Rev 1, it is clear that the One who is speaking in Rev 1:8, who proclaimed Himself the Alpha and the Omega, the Almighty, is the Risen Lord, Jesus Christ.
So for me, whenever a debate begins among Hebrew Roots believers about the deity of Messiah Yeshua, I neither get alarmed nor worry nor am plagued with doubts. That God is three in one, that Messiah Yeshua is God come in the flesh, is the orthodox doctrine of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation, first taught in Torah, and confirmed in Torah, and then throughout the rest of Scripture as we have seen. If a believer is confused on a point of doctrine, then clarification and teaching is called for, not ostracizing.
answering answers in genesis, part six
answering answers in genesis, part seven
answering answers in genesis, part eight
answering answers in genesis, part nine
answering answers in genesis, part ten
answering answers in genesis, part eleven
answering answers in genesis, part twelve