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According to Unitarian Christians, the identity of Yahweh is straightforward. Yahweh = the Father = God. Therefore, linguistic usage in the OT is fairly straightforward. Whenever Yahweh ('LORD') is mentioned, it is the Father.

For Trinitarians, when Yahweh is used in the OT, what does it mean? Is it God inclusive of the 3 persons of the Trinity? Or does it mean the Father? The Son? Or, like the word 'God' in the New Testament according to Trinitarians, does the meaning of Yahweh in the OT change depending on context?

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5 Answers 5

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Yahweh is God, the Trinity.

That name means the I AM and thus indicates the Divine Essence and Existence (I am who am - Exodus 3:14, cf. John 8:58).

It is thus similar to "God" in that God refers to the essence and thus all 3 persons are described as God.

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    Since I don't feel like adding a mostly-redundant answer... "God" in the OT is usually the Father. God in the OT is Yahweh. Therefore, the notion that only the Son is Yahweh seems silly. But Jesus also said (John 8:58), "Before Abraham was, I AM". So the notion that only the Father is Yahweh is also incorrect.
    – Matthew
    Apr 29, 2022 at 19:06
  • Would non-Catholics agree that God's Essence is His Existence, and that this is the meaning of "I Am Who Am"?
    – user54757
    Apr 29, 2022 at 19:08
  • @Matthew ""God" in the OT is usually the Father." Are you saying when Yahweh is referred to in the OT, it is usually referring to the Father? Apr 29, 2022 at 19:10
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    @Matthew I don't think we can definitively say that any appearance of God in the OT was necessarily the Father. Augustine explores this idea in great length in De Trinitate.
    – eques
    Apr 29, 2022 at 19:15
  • @SupportiveDante even if they don't agree on the essence part, the existence part is a) what the verse directly says and b) what Yahweh itself refers to.
    – eques
    Apr 29, 2022 at 19:16
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It can be any specific Person or all three

One can't say that every mention of Lord refers to Father or that every metion of Jahweh refers to all 3 Persons. Sometimes, the context points to a specific Person, sometimes not and we can only guess that it refers to Father or to all 3.

Father is probably the easiest to find in OT. One specific example that comes to mind is Jesus praying to Father on the cross with Ps 22: "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" and we can be fairly certain He refers to Father (given He will ask Father for forgiveness to people in a moment and that He always prays to Father throughout Gospel).

I'm not sure if Jesus is mentioned directly in OT as God, but He refers to Himself with the name Jahweh (J 8, 58).

Holy Spirit is also not mentioned directly, but we know He is the source of prophecies given by God (1 Cor 12, 8-11).

God as Trinity is creating the world in Genesis ("Let Us make man in Our image, in the likeness of Ourselves").

But...

The core issue to me is that it cannot possibly be important. Father, Son and Spirit are One God. Whatever is done by one of them is also with full approval of others. We cannot even distiguish them with our human minds, we only separate them based on what Jesus told us about actions taken by each Person.

Holy Spirit is the one that empowers us, tells us about God and grants His gifts.
Son is the one who saved us with His Sacrifice.
Father is the one that gives us life, who cares about our wellbeing and grants us what we need to flourish.

But any of these could still be done by any other Person. Or maybe this understanding is wrong and everything happens because of all three, they are not even separate enough to deliver us in separate ways. The mystery of Trinity is impossible to understand and whetever we think about God, it's probably wrong (but we believe Holy Spirit would fix any blatant heresy eventually).

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  • +1 Lots of good points and key scriptural references. My guess is this is, indeed, the standard Trinitarian view. Apr 30, 2022 at 23:00
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Here's the question of the thread? "According to Trinitarians, when the term Yahweh (Lord) is used in the OT, who exactly is being referred to?

My understanding of the question is which person of the Trinity is being referred to in the OT and what does "Yahweh" stand for in the OT?

God's Name Is Almost Always Translated Lord In The English Bible. But the Hebrew would be pronounced something like “Yahweh,” and is built on the word for “I am.”

The following statement was made by One God the Father referring to Unitarian Christians, "According to unitarian Christians, the identity of Yahweh is straightforward. Yahweh = the Father = God."

Another poster in the comments section said this: "God" in the OT is usually the Father. God in the OT is Yahweh. Therefore, the notion that only the Son is Yahweh seems silly."

The Holy Spirit is a person in relation to the Father and the Son. The Holy Spirit is God in relation to us. If you are in a relationship with the Father/Son/Holy Spirit, then you must be in a relationship with them all, for there is only one God. If you deny one, you deny all three persons.

For example at Genesis 1:1, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." No distinction of persons. Genesis 1:2, "And the earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God, was moving over the surface of the waters." Notice the distinction of persons where the Holy Spirit is now introduced.

From Genesis 1:3-25 there is no distinction of persons, it just says God.

Here is another example at Genesis 17:1-3, "Now when Abram was ninety-nine years old the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, "I am God Almighty; Walk before Me, and be blameless, Vs2, And I WILL establish My covenant between Me and you, And I will multiply you exceedingly. Vs3, And Abram fell on his face and God talked with him saying etc." Here again no distinction of persons.

So where is there a distinction of persons in the Old Testament? One excellent example is at Malachi 3:1. "Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before ME/God. And the LORD whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple, (Who is the Lord that will come to HIS temple?)

"and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, HE is coming. (Who is the messenger of the covenant that is coming?) says The LORD of hosts. (Who is the LORD of hosts?) Which persons of the Trinity are referred to in this verse?

The bottom line is the fact that the context determines which persons of the Trinity are referred, and where there is no distinction made, it is obviously unnecessary to make a distinction. If God says to us His glory He will not give to another, that is because there is only One God.

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    This is very unclear and I do not see that it sets forth Trinitarian doctrine as expressed at Nicea. I would suggest that it would be better to quote from Athanasius or similar. You are making assumptions without evidence (in my view).
    – Nigel J
    Apr 30, 2022 at 8:45
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    Don Stewart's 'summary' states In the Old Testament the divine name is the Lord. The Hebrew word is pronounced Yahweh or Jehovah. In the English Bible it is spelled with all capital letters LORD. I don't see that that clarifies the matter.
    – Nigel J
    Apr 30, 2022 at 8:48
  • @NigelJ I decided to reformate my answer and if you have any questions I will be happy to address them. Also, if you really think about it, one can determine from any verse in the OT whether the speaker is just "God," or the Father or the Son or the Holy Spirit.
    – Mr. Bond
    Apr 30, 2022 at 14:47
  • Re: Gen 17.....God almighty is distinct in person from the lamb(the son) in Rev 4-5. Context of the entire scriptures is key here. Jun 29, 2023 at 18:44
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I can't help but notice some people quoting scriptures without understanding that "Lord", in many Bibles, is originally YAHWEH. Malachi 3:1 “Look! I am sending my messenger, and he will clear up a way before me. And suddenly the true Lord, whom you are seeking, will come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant will come, in whom you take delight. Look! He will certainly come,” says Jehovah of armies.

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    Jul 15, 2023 at 14:47
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It refers to Jesus. In Isa. 9:6 we read:

6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

So Jesus is called the everlasting Father. Then, in Jn. 8:58 we read:

58 Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.

Jesus here says He is the great I AM. Thus it is clear to me who is refered to under the name you asked.

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