According to this answer provided by Geremia, Thomas Aquinas wrote:

...before Christ, the mystery of Christ was believed explicitly by the learned, but implicitly and under a veil, so to speak, by the simple, so too was it with the mystery of the Trinity

In Deuteronomy 13, Moses tells these simple people:

If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder,

And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them;

Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for YHVH your God proveth you, to know whether ye love YHVH your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

Ye shall walk after YHVH your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him.

And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death; because he hath spoken to turn you away from YHVH your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed you out of the house of bondage, to thrust thee out of the way which YHVH thy God commanded thee to walk in. So shalt thou put the evil away from the midst of thee.

If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers;

Namely, of the gods of the people which are round about you, nigh unto thee, or far off from thee, from the one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth;

Thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him:

But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people.

And thou shalt stone him with stones, that he die; because he hath sought to thrust thee away from YHVH thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.

And all Israel shall hear, and fear, and shall do no more any such wickedness as this is among you.

How does Catholicism interpret the verses which say the simple Jewish people were to kill any prophet that enticed them to worship gods they have not known, since they never knew god the son who is the second person of a triune god?

  • I'm not sure what there is to interpret. Christ asserted his unity with the Father. Some believed him and followed him. Others didn't believe him and conspired to kill him.
    – bradimus
    Commented Aug 29, 2017 at 21:52
  • 1
    @bradimus What did the Jews do wrong by putting god the son to death? They never knew about god the son nor a triune god. If Jesus had come to proclaim he was god, and through very veiled messages tried to explain he is the second person of a triune god, how we're the Jews to know he wasn't claiming to be "a god they have not known"?
    – Cannabijoy
    Commented Aug 29, 2017 at 22:00
  • @anonymouswho See the St. Thomas Aquinas quote in my answer below.
    – Geremia
    Commented Aug 29, 2017 at 22:21

2 Answers 2


From the Haydock Commentary on Deut. 13:

Ver. 9. Presently put him to death. Not by killing him by private authority, but by informing the magistrate, and proceeding by order of justice. (Challoner) (Worthington) --- Philo seems to assert the contrary. But he perhaps speaks of those who publicly endeavoured to lead the people astray. Presently is not in Hebrew. Other criminals were allowed twenty-four hours after condemnation. No delay was granted to false prophets. No excuse was admitted. If he had even been once acquitted, he might be examined again. --- Thy hand. The accuser or witness first threw a stone, after the wretch had been conducted out of the city, chap. xvii. 5., and Acts vii. 57.

Addressing "Whether Christ's slayers knew who He was?", St. Thomas Aquinas writes (Summa Theologica III q. 47 a. 5 c.):

Among the Jews some were elders [maiores]*, and others of lesser degree [minores]*. Now according to the author of De Qq. Nov. et Vet. Test., qu. lxvi, the elders, who were called "rulers, knew," as did also the devils, "that He was the Christ promised in the Law: for they saw all the signs in Him which the prophets said would come to pass: but they did not know the mystery of His Godhead." Consequently the Apostle says (1 Cor. 2:8): "If they had known it, they would never have crucified the Lord of glory." It must, however, be understood that their ignorance did not excuse them from crime, because it was, as it were, affected ignorance. For they saw manifest signs of His Godhead; yet they perverted them out of hatred and envy of Christ; neither would they believe His words, whereby He avowed that He was the Son of God. Hence He Himself says of them (Jn. 15:22): "If I had not come, and spoken to them, they would not have sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin." And afterwards He adds (Jn. 15:24): "If I had not done among them the works that no other man hath done, they would not have sin." And so the expression employed by Job (21:14) can be accepted on their behalf: "(Who) said to God: depart from us, we desire not the knowledge of Thy ways."

But those of lesser degree—namely, the common folk—who had not grasped the mysteries of the Scriptures, did not fully comprehend that He was the Christ or the Son of God. For although some of them believed in Him, yet the multitude did not; and if they doubted sometimes whether He was the Christ, on account of the manifold signs and force of His teaching, as is stated Jn. 7:31,41, nevertheless they were deceived afterwards by their rulers, so that they did not believe Him to be the Son of God or the Christ. Hence Peter said to them (Acts 3:17): "I know that you did it through ignorance, as did also your rulers"—namely, because they were seduced by the rulers.

*translated as "the learned" and "the simple," respectively, in my quote of Summa Theologica II-II q. 2 a. 8

  • Thanks Geremia. Does Aquinas mean to say that the learned Jews knew Jesus was "God in the flesh" and the very God who they serve, but they were jealous of God so they had him killed?
    – Cannabijoy
    Commented Aug 30, 2017 at 14:18

The answer is in the question itself: hearing about God the Son was not hearing about a strange god, but hearing that the one and only God, creator of the universe and saviour of Israel, was Father and Son, two consubstantial Persons [1].

The oneness of God was affirmed by Jesus when, having been asked by a scribe about the foremost commandment, He answered, "The foremost [commandment] is, 'Hear this O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one,'" (Mk 12:29). Here Jesus quoted the Shema: 'Shema Yisrael, YHWH eloheinu, YHWH echad.' (Deut 6:4).

The consubstantiality of God the Son and God the Father was affirmed by Jesus when He said "I and the Father are one" (Jn 10:30). If Jesus was speaking in Hebrew, He probably said "Ani veha'av echad", ending with echad as in the Shema.

Therefore, for the Jews to conclude that Jesus was not instigating them to perform idolatry, i.e. to go after false gods, it was necessary that they came to Nicene trinitarian theology [1]: There is one divine Nature or Essence and three [1] divine Persons, with each divine Person Being eternally the absolutely simple and immutable divine Essence.

Now, since Jesus obviously had a human nature and had been born of a woman, while the divine nature is spiritual, eternal and immutable, his consubstantiality with God the Father referred to his divine nature, which must have been united but not mixed with his human nature. Therefore, it was also necessary that the Jews came to Chalcedonian Christology: The Son of God had assumed a human nature and made it his own, from his conception, with the union of natures in his Person (hypostatic union) not involving any change to either the divine or the human nature: "The distinction between the natures was never abolished by their union, but rather the character proper to each of the two natures was preserved as they came together in one person (prosopon) and one hypostasis." (Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon).

[1] At the time of Jesus' trial, the members of the Sanhedrin could have had only the provisional binitarian form of Christian faith, since Jesus revealed the Holy Spirit as another divine Person to the eleven faithful apostles at the Last Supper (Jn 14:15 - 16:15), just a few hours before the trial.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .