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THOU SHALT HAVE NO OTHER GODS ON MY FACE.

One of the most common explanations I've seen floating around in the Internet is a picture:

enter image description here It denotes the 'Godhead'. In my understanding, heads, and persons, are distinctly unique because of their face. If this Godhead has 3 distinct faces, does the idea of the trinity not completely contradict the very notion of the first commandment? The Father IS NOT The Son, The Son IS NOT The Holy Ghost, And the Holy Ghost IS NOT The Father. Each entity here represents a distinct face of God. How does this not explicitly contradict the very first commandment?

Further, the second commandment also states that THOU SHALT NOT CREATE ANY GRAVEN IMAGES IN THE LIKENESS OF ANYTHING IN THE HEAVENS ABOVE or ON THE EARTH BELOW or beneath it.

Taken from https://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/idolatry: Idolatry, [N] [T] [E] strictly speaking denotes the worship of deity in a visible form...

Do these two items, side by side, not explicitly condemn our notion of trinitarianism AND God-Incarnation? Does this also explain why we cannot find any of our church fathers or primary sources in the first 300 years of our tradition expounding upon this clearly? My wife quoted 2 lines for citing the trinity: baptise in the name of the father ..., and there are 3 that bear witness in heaven. The former doesn't explicitly denote the doctrine to me and the latter was actually thrown out from many versions that are currently being published in the bible as a known fabrication. I guess the question is, besides Athansian Creed, from where did this idea come from? How can people tamper with the word of God so easily without conscience? This is my first question (or first few questions) here and I'd just like people to be somewhat sensitive to the matter if my knowledge-base just isn't there. I think this is why forums like this exist. Thank you!

PS I think I have considered myself a Unitarian for the greater part of 10 years now but my wife continues to urge me to ask questions so, here I am. She is Protestant.

PSS I've read quite a few answers here so I'd like to exclude anyone from citing Jesus as saying "I am the first and the last, the alpha and the omega" since, by ALL accounts, Jesus did not speak Greek so I don't know why the Bible authors quote him as claiming to be the first and the last character in the Greek Alphabet.

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    Does this answer your question? What qualifies the 3 entities of the Trinity as one? – curiousdannii Apr 19 at 23:36
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    No one says the Trinity means God has three "faces" or "heads". I don't know where you could have got that idea from. – curiousdannii Apr 19 at 23:37
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    The first commandment prohibits worshipping other gods. The three persons of the Trinity are the same God. So I don't see the alleged contradiction. – Andreas Blass Apr 20 at 2:06
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    Trinity: three hypostases (persons) sharing ONE divine nature. Its not that hard once you understand the definitions. – AngelusVastator Apr 20 at 5:11
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    "so I don't know why the Bible authors" If you are going to question the Bible authors, then how can anyone convince you? If Scripture is erroneous by your standards, so would any early Church documents. – eques Apr 20 at 21:08
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If God is un-created and infinitely and eternally perfect then it is reasonable that He possesses uncreated, infinite, eternal integrity. If this is so then there can be no ontological difference between who He is, what He says, and what He does. He has revealed Himself to us in this fashion in Scripture.

God the Father is who He is

Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”—  yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist. - 1 Corinthians 8:4-6

God the Son is what He says

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. - John 1:1

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. - John 1:14

God the Spirit is what He does

Then he said to me, “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts. - Zechariah 4:6

Being, saying, and doing are distinct and separate for us created, finite, temporal creatures. These three are distinct in God but not separate because he is infinite and eternal. One God...3 distinct yet inseparable expressions.

I hope this helps.

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Before I get to the main part of my answer, I will address the idea of a graven image. An image is a representation, a semblance, not the real thing. When Jesus came, though it is true that he is called "the image of the invisible God", Jesus is not image in the sense of semblance but as reality. Worshiping Jesus is not idolatry because he is not an imitation, he is true God.

It is supposed that God first revealed Himself as one, but only later showed Himself as a Trinity, thus causing many to be confused and to accuse either God or Christian theologians of dishonesty. In fact, God laid the groundwork for all understanding of His Trinitarian nature from the beginning, in Job.

The traditional view is that Job was the first book of the Bible to be written. Therefore, what it reveals about the nature of God should be taken as foundational. The Ten Commandments came later and must be understood in the light of what is taught in Job, not the other way around.

Job is unusual in that it is one of only three books in which Satan's words are recorded. Analysis of the flow of history indicates that Satan showed up in history at the three most important times (and will appear once again at the fourth and final time). In each case, Satan had a strategic goal: to oppose and defeat one person of the Trinity.

  1. In Eden, Satan tempted Eve (through the serpent). His strategic goal was to cause Eve (and Adam) to distrust the goodness of God the Father, and the Father to destroy His creation in anger. He wanted to separate the Spirit (dwelling in man) from the Father. He only half succeeded. Adam and Eve fell, but God promised a savior instead of destruction, though he did execute judgment.

  2. In Job, Satan tried to incite God to destroy Job by claiming Job would curse God if he suffered great harm and loss. Satan also hoped to cause Job to abandon faith in his creator. Satan lost on both counts. Satan's goal was to prevent the Word of God from taking root in the world, and to separate God from His Word. However, Job prayed that his words and his story be written down forever, his faith that God would raise him from the dead. God answered Job's prayer by creating the Bible, with Job as not only the first, but the central book. (The middle chapter of the Old Testament falls in Job 29, where Job declares his love for God.)

  3. In Matthew (and some of the other Gospels), Satan appears in the desert to tempt Jesus. Jesus had just been baptized by the Holy Spirit, and that Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness. Satan tried to trick, threaten and tempt Jesus into following and worshiping him, instead of following the direction of the Spirit. Thus Satan's strategic goal was to separate the Word (Jesus) from the Holy Spirit. Jesus later told Peter that Satan wanted to sift him like wheat. Then on Pentecost, Peter was the one to address the crowds as the Holy Spirit was poured out and the church began.

So you see that through the strategic actions of the enemy, Satan tried to separate the Trinity, Spirit from Father, Father from Son, Son from Spirit, and so destroy the integrity of God. Satan failed.

The Book of Job has much to say about this conflict between Satan and the Trinity. Each character in the Book lines up for or against one member of the Trinity and gives a face to this conflict. Job represents the Word and suffering servant, Elihu represents the Holy Spirit, and the Whirlwind represents the Father.

On the other side, Satan together with Zophar represent the father of lies, Eliphaz is the Unholy Spirit, and Bildad is the anti-Christ. By their order in the structure of the dialog, their word choices, analogies used, and particular ideas expressed, each of Job's three "friends" directly attacks their opposite member of the trinity. For example, Job cries out for a savior who is both divine and powerful, as well as human and relatable, a "Son of man". Bildad in his final speech attacks the notion that anyone could trust in a "son of man" (see the ESV which gets the Hebrew translation right), calling him a worm and a maggot. Thus Bildad is anti-Christ, because he denies the incarnation.

When I speak of analogies, I refer to Jesus' parable of the soils: the beaten path with the birds, the rocky soil and the thorny soil. Satan is of course Satan, but one of the friends speaks of a plant being ripped from the rocks, while the other speaks of a poor person being robbed, having even the few plants growing among the thorns taken from him.

Satan's attack is threefold, working from the outside in:

  1. Attack the material of Job: possessions, family, health.
  2. Attack the emotions of Job: abandonment by servants, brothers and sisters, and wife.
  3. Attack the mind of Job: the friend's arguments by which they tried to deny God loved him, cared for him, and would help him, smearing him with lies.

God's restoration is threefold, working from the inside out:

  1. Transform the mind of Job: the truth was poured into Job's mind so that he spoke prophecies and uttered mysteries. God later approved of what Job said. If you look carefully, you will see in Job's speeches eight prophecies of the most important events in the life of Christ AND THOSE EIGHT EVENTS ARE IN CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER OF HOW THEY PLAYED OUT IN JESUS' LIFE!!!
  2. Heal the heart of Job: Elihu comforted Job by telling him that God did not despise him, was still speaking to him, warning him, paying his ransom, and announcing his arrival. In his opening words, Elihu spoke of how intense feelings were rising up within him; that was the influx of the Holy Spirit who gives us emotional power, comfort and boldness, just as it did to Peter.
  3. Restore the health and material prosperity of Job: God the Father, through the Whirlwind, began the process of manipulating the physical realm through miracles, the restoration of relationships and the increase of prosperity. Most importantly, in chapter 41, God describes what He will do for the world: send a savior who will be slain as a sacrifice for us and make a new covenant with mankind.

I could go on, but that would require a whole book. Wait - I wrote one! Job Rises: 13 Keys to a Resilient Life delves into many aspects of Job related to the Trinity. If you have questions about my logic or wish to see the evidence marshaled in an extended argument, verse by verse, read it.

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Read Genesis 1 where God says “let US make man in OUR image”. Then you also read that the Spirit of God was moving across the face of the waters.

You have in the clearest possible terms the existence of more than one “person” being God, and at least one of them is the Holy Spirit, right from the start.

In John 1 you read that Jesus was the one through whom all the world, and indeed, all the universe was created. Jesus used the name “I AM” in speaking of his pre-existing Abraham. Moses spoke to “I AM” recording that he spoke to God. Paul in Hebrews 11 writes that Moses esteemed the reproach of CHRIST of greater value than the treasures of Egypt. Revelation tells us that the Lamb is worthy of worship, and we know that only God is worshipped. All these, and many more, indicate that Jesus is God.

I am assuming no one needs convincing that the Father is God.

So we can clearly see all three are God.

How are they three and also one? If we could understand God, if who and what and how and when and where were fully comprehensible to us, He would not be God.

Edit

A comment is that I am relying on John 1 too much and that it is being misread, misquoted and/or misunderstood. This I disagree with. The idea of John 1 not referring to Christ being God is also a Jehovah's Witness belief and they raise the same objection. They refer specifically to verse 1 saying that it should read "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a God".

This translation, by changing it to "the Word was a God" is a dishonest translation, for that concept is not found in that verse in any way shape form or hint.

The opening words of John echo the exact words of Genesis 1:1 in the Septuagint, but draws a special emphasis to pre-existance by inserting "was" (ēn). The readers to whom he wrote would have been intimately familiar with the Septuagint, because as some do not immediately realise, to the New Testament world, the Old Testament, and the Old Testament only, was the Bible. The New Testament was being written in their time by men who walked among them. They duly respected their writings as the writings of Apostles, but as Paul writes of the Bereans, "they were more noble" in that they "searched the scriptures daily" to confirm that what he wrote, "was so". By this, Paul meant, they searched the Old Testament writings to confirm his gospel.

Genesis 1:1 in the Septuagint states "en archē ho Theos" and John 1:1 writes "en archē ēn ho Logos". The emphasis there to draw attention to the preexistence of the Word, saying that be existing before any creation, he is God, not "a" God. The Bible had to this point only ever said this "in the beginning (en archē)" of only one, and that one is God.

These opening words "in the beginning was (en archē ēn)" from John is to emphasise to his readers in an implicit and powerful way that the preexistence of the Word necessitates the deity of the Word. This he says explicitly later to remove all possibility of doubt.

Not satisfied with only pointing out that the Word preexisted creation, John makes it clear that at creation the Word was not elsewhere, but that the word was intimately connected with God - "and the Word was with God. (kai ho Logos ēn pros ton Theon)". This we can translate better. "and the Word was with THE God" which is the original Greek. A clear indication that he is not speaking of principalities and powers but that He speaks of "the creator God" which inanimate creation obeys and through whom it is formed.

Now, not satisfied with all the preceding, but building on it, John explicitly states "and the Word was God (kai Theo ēn ho Logos)". But here is where everyone differs, not least the Jehovah's Witnesses (noted JW from now on).

The Greek writes literally "and God was the Word".

Let's re-read with that translation (Greek at that time had only uncials (capital letters), but in our modern text word that is synonymous with SHOUTING so I'll do the opposite):

"in the beginning was the word and the word was with god and god was the word"

Now the question to decide is which is correct? This is what JW's translate as "the word was a god".

I see the exact opposite. In fact, this is the strongest statement in support of the Trinity doctrine. John speaks of the Word's preexistence prior to creation, he indicates the Word was separate but associated with God, and then he says God is the Word. Yes, indeed, I prefer to read "the Word was with God and God was the Word." John here says exactly what Trinitarians say "The word is separate from God but the Word is not separate from God". In a way which human language is not designed to describe John describes "that holy thing" as something individual but not individual. As combined but separate. As One but not One.

In the 1st chapter of John though we find elsewhere the clear indication that Jesus was the one through whom all creation was made. Now when we look at Genesis we clearly find that God created the world. Is so many many ways in this chapter, John clearly points to the divinity of Jesus.

I suppose, in the end, a large part of this discussion on the Trinity also revolves on the discussion "is Jesus God" just like I am informed Gnostics need to discuss "is the Father God".

My original pre-edited answer does that in some detail but I will add more:

Who can forgive sin, but God?

Who has authority to state you will be in paradise with me, but God?

Who other than God can be the resurrection and the life?

God alone accepts worship - Jesus accepted worship. Angels (created beings) quickly admonish worship aimed at themselves and instruct - Worship God!

And He said to me. "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. He who overcomes shall inherit all thing, AND I WILL BE HIS GOD and he shall be My son.

Jesus is Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

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  • I am assuming no one needs convincing that the Father is God. - The Gnostics do, since they deny that the Creator God of the material Universe, spoken of in the Hebrew Scriptures, and the Father of Christ, spoken of in the New Testament, are one and the same entity. – Lucian Apr 22 at 6:33
  • I can tell that many people here haven't studied the Hebrew or the Greek but are merely spouting probably the opinion of their local pastor. Since my teacher was a native Greek speaker who studied the Latin, I find it difficult to believe that people here quoting John 1:1 - 3 as being an explanation is quite ridiculous. Such a low-level understanding of the scripture is probably why we can justify trintarianism without any real explanation or clear statements coming out of the scripture themselves.. but rather opinions overlaid on misinterpretation. I will have to continue my search elsewhere. – Maester Auron Apr 22 at 20:39
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    You said a lot Maester, but you gave zero 'meat' in those words, only opinion and hearsay. And no, this is not the opinion of a local pastor, this is mine, carefully studied. You are using the language of debate rather than that of scholarly discussion. – Ian Macintosh Apr 23 at 7:36
  • Lucian I think that anyone sharing Gnostic beliefs would need to study elsewhere as there does need to be a foundation in order to study this question. But you are correct, denying the Father is God would prohibit a belief in the Trinity doctrine. – Ian Macintosh Apr 23 at 7:38
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A Son is given to us...and His name will be called...Mighty God, Eternal Father. Isaiah 9

If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and henceforth you know Him and have seen Him...Have I been so long a time with you, and you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father. John 14

The Spirit of your Father......The Spirit of the One who raised Jesus from the dead. Matthew 10; Romans 8

The Lord is the Spirit......The Spirit of His Son. 2 Corinthians 3; Galatians 4

I can guess what it intends, but the picture's inaccurate. Your physical, human, understanding is that persons are faces; and God uses the language of "faces" in the Bible; but God is Spirit (Jn 4). He's timeless, He's without a creator. He's the One who created us.

Hear, O Israel, Jehovah is our God; Jehovah is one......The only God. Deuteronomy 6; John 5

We can understand God only dimly with our mentality. According to the Bible, we were made to experience Him, John 1:12, 16. That's the only way you can know. We can't even know ourselves without Him (Matthew 4:16). We can't understand how God is Three-One; we can't understand how He's eternal, just was always there (Exodus 3:14; Hebrews 7:3). He is the "there." The only "there." Though we can see that God made us, and God made other people---He contains both these in Himself. He's One and He's Three. He's Three in One. (As far as Him not knowing Greek---that's easy. He's God, He's eternal, He's Resurrection. He's the One who made us and everybody and everything. Greek is easy.)

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  • You've inaccurately translated the line here. This is actually translated in the past tense in 4 other places in the old testament but in this line, you've translated it as future tense? How do you justify this? – Maester Auron Apr 22 at 20:38
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First of all, I believe this it is a mystery which cannot be rationally understood. Just believing that one can understand the nature of God (and being a Trinity is part of God's nature) can lead to Gnosticism (which is a heresy).

Second, in my own understanding, Perichoresis can be a key towards a better human attempt to understand what is not understandable. In short, Perichoresis is the love between the three Persons of the Holy Trinity. This love keeps Them as One, although they are Three.

I suggest not to try to attach human concepts to God (comparisons with faces and human persons). We are created. God is uncreated, before time and before anything else.

God bless!

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  • This makes sense. However, what is the purpose of revelation if this isn't explained to us clearly and our souls depend exactly on this idea? – Maester Auron Apr 22 at 20:38
  • @MaesterAuron - honestly, that's a question for God. I'm not sure I'm following the "our souls depend exactly on this idea". I'd argue that our souls depend on John 13:34 and Matthew 25 (and other similar passages). I'd also argue that our souls depend on being humble rather than proud. And knowing God is a personal experience, in which the Church guides us. And the idea of "explained to us clearly" suggests there's a rational explanation for what is not rational, but above all ration. Forgive me, and God bless! – Andrei E May 7 at 16:03

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