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Jewishness And The Trinity


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#1 Evangelion

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Posted 11 February 2003 - 06:05 AM

Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum is the founder and director of Ariel Ministries - a so-called "Messianic Jewish Fellowship", which attempts to convert modern Jews from Judaism to Christian fundamentalism. As a Jew (by birth) himself, Fruchtenbaum is familiar with many of the standard Jewish objections to the teaching that Jesus of Nazareth was the Jewish Messiah, and his counter-arguments on this point are generally quite good.

However, as a mainstream Christian, Fruchtenbaum denies the Biblical Messiah in favour of the Trinitarian Christ. His Jesus, then, is not “the man, Christ Jesus” (I Timothy 2:5), but "another Jesus, whom we have not preached" (II Corinthians 11:4.)

In his celebrated essay (Jewishness and the Trinity), Fruchtenbaum works hard to "prove" that the Old Testament did indeed teach a plurality of persons within the Godhead, and that Jesus of Nazareth was one of these "divine persons." Many Trinitarians have tried to fabricate a defence of the Trinity on the basis of Old Testament evidence alone - but for sheer audacity and gall, Fruchtenbaum's essay (a curious mixture of truth and lies) is unparalleled in my experience.

An abridged version of this rebuttal to Fruchtenbaum's thesis first appeared on another Christian apologetics discussion form at the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry (CARM), where it was posted on the author's behalf, by a Christadelphian member of the CARM forums. Fruchtenbaum's comments appear in the quotation boxes; my rebuttal follows in regular text.


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"Shema Yisroel Adonai Elochenu Adonai Echad"

(Hear O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord.)

Rabbi Stanley Greenberg of Temple Sinai in Philadelphia wrote:

"Christians are, of course, entitled to believe in a Trinitarian conception of God.  But their effort to base this conception on the Hebrew Bible must fly in the face of the overwhelming testimony of that Bible. Hebrew Scriptures are clear and unequivocal on the oneness of God The Hebrew Bible affirms the one God with unmistakable clarity Monotheism, an uncompromising belief in one God, is the hallmark of the Hebrew Bible, the unwavering affirmation of Judaism and the unshakable faith of the Jew."

Whether Christians are accused of being polytheists or tritheists and whether or not it is admitted that the Christian concept of the Tri-unity is a form of monotheism, one element always appears: one cannot believe in the Trinity and be Jewish.  Even if what Christians believe is monotheistic, it still does not seem to be monotheistic enough to qualify as true Jewishness.  Rabbi Greenberg's article tends to reflect that thinking.

He went on to say,

"... under no circumstances can a concept of a plurality of the Godhead or a trinity of the Godhead ever be based upon the Hebrew Bible."

It is perhaps best to begin with the very source of Jewish theology and the only means of testing it: Hebrew Scriptures.  Since so much relies on Hebrew Scripture usage, then to the Hebrew we should turn.


Fruchtenbaum opens carefully, showing great respect to the Old Testament and its message. He does this because his audience is Jewish, and he wishes to reassure them that his argument will be taken purely from the Jewish Scriptures. To his credit, he does indeed restrict himself to the OT – but his blatant misuse of the text is so obvious that he may as well be quoting obscure Russian poetry, for it adds very little (if anything) to his argument.
'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#2 Evangelion

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Posted 11 February 2003 - 06:05 AM

GOD IS A PLURALITY
The Name Elohim

It is generally agreed that Elohim is a plural noun having the masculine plural ending "im."  The very word Elohim used of the true God in Genesis 1:1, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth," is also used in Exodus 20:3, "You shall have no other gods (Elohim) before Me," and in Deuteronomy 13:2, "Let us go after other gods (Elohim)... ."  While the use of the plural Elohim does not prove a Tri-unity, it certainly opens the door to a doctrine of plurality in the Godhead since it is the word that is used for the one true God as well as for the many false gods.


The tenuous nature of Fruchtenbaum's argument is immediately apparent. He realises that no solid proof for the Trinity can be advanced purely on the basis of the Hebrew word elohim, and so he attempts to fudge the point with a digression into "plurality." This is not a sound hermeneutic. If the intention of the OT was to show that God is a plurality of persons, this would be spelled out in clear and unambiguous language. There would be a consistent series of references to the plurality of God, and God would refer to Himself consistently in the plural. But that is not the case, and Fruchtenbaum knows it only too well.

Take note of the following errors:
  • Fruchtenbaum treats elohim as a name. But it is not a name at all!
  • Fruchtenbaum's argument rests entirely on the fact that elohim is a plural noun. But this is irrelevant, as I shall later demonstrate.
How do we know that elohim is not a name? Because the consistent use of this word throughout Scripture, stands in opposition to Fruchtenbaum's claim.

Elohim is simply the plural form of eloah, and therefore signifies "Mighty Ones." It occurs in the Old Testament about 2,601 times. In the first two chapters of Genesis, it is rendered by the word "God," but in Chapter 3:5 it is translated "gods." (The serpent says "Ye shall become as elohim, knowing good and evil.") In Genesis 31:30, 32; 35:2 & 4 and many other places, it is used in reference to idols (which represented the false gods of the heathen.)

In Psalm 8:5, elohim has been rendered "angels" (a translation which is endorsed by the apostle Paul in Hebrews 2:7.) Thus, the statement, "God said: Let us make man in our image, after our likeness" (Genesis 1:26), refers to God addressing His angels.

In Exodus 21:6; 22:8, 9, 22 & 28, elohim has been rendered "judges." (See also Psalm 82:6; quoted by Jesus himself.) The judges are called "gods" (elohim) because they judged on behalf of Yahweh and with His authority.

In Exodus 7:1, the word elohim is applied to Moses: "I have made thee a god (elohim) to Pharaoh." Moses was appointed as God's representative to Pharaoh, and for this reason, Aaron was styled his "prophet."

Elohim is translated "God" when used in reference to the one true God, but also translated…
  • …"god" (when used in reference to a false god; "gods" when referring to a multiplicity of false deities.)
  • …"god" or "gods" (in reference to human beings.)
  • …"angels."
  • …"judges."
  • …"mighty" (in reference to a human prince and thunder.)
  • …"great" (in reference to Rachel's competition with her sister.)
It is obviously not a name, and it is obviously does not always refer to a plurality.
'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#3 Evangelion

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Posted 11 February 2003 - 06:06 AM

Plural Verbs Used With Elohim
Virtually all Hebrew scholars do recognize that the word Elohim, as it stands by itself, is a plural noun.  Nevertheless, they wish to deny that it allows for any plurality in the Godhead whatsoever.  Their line of reasoning usually goes like this: When "Elohim" is used of the true God, it is followed by a singular verb; when it is used of false gods, it is followed by the plural verb.  Rabbi Greenberg states it as follows:

"But, in fact, the verb used in the opening verse of Genesis is "bara," which means "he created" - singular.  One need not be too profound a student of Hebrew to understand that the opening verse of Genesis clearly speaks of a singular God."

The point made, of course, is generally true because the Bible does teach that God is only one God and, therefore, the general pattern is to have the plural noun followed by the singular verb when it speaks of the one true God.  However, there are places where the word is used of the true God and yet it is followed by a plural verb:

Genesis 20:13: And it came to pass, when God (Elohim) caused me to wander (Literally: THEY caused me to wander) from my father's house ...

Genesis 35:7: ... because there God (Elohim) appeared to him ... (Literally: THEY appeared to him.)

2 Samuel 7:23: ... God (Elohim) went ... (Literally: THEY went.)

Psalm 58 Surely He is God who judges ... (Literally: THEY judge.)


The incidental use of plural verbs is hardly indicative of a "plurality of persons." Fruchtenbaum is scraping hard for the evidence which might support his conclusions - and this isn't it. Trinitarian scholars themselves have agreed that no argument for the Trinity can be made from these meagre textual irregularities. They are easily explained by a more rational appeal to the construction of the Hebrew itself.

Let us see how they are dealt with by standard Trinitarian authorities.
'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#4 Evangelion

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Posted 11 February 2003 - 02:58 PM

  • Genesis 20:13
  • From the footnotes of the New English Translation:

    The Hebrew verb is plural. This may be a case of grammatical agreement with the name for God, which is plural in form. However, when this plural name refers to the one true God, accompanying predicates are usually singular in form. Perhaps Abraham is accommodating his speech to Abimelech’s polytheistic perspective. (See GKC §145.i.) If so, one should translate, “when the gods made me wander.”
  • Albert Barnes, writing in his Notes on the Bible:

    13. התעוּ hıt‛û is plural in punctuation, agreeing grammatically with אלהים 'ĕlohıym. ו(w), however, may be regarded as the third radical, and the verb may thus really be singular.

    […]

    “Caused me to wander.” The verb here is not necessarily plural. But if it be, it is only an instance of the literal, meaning of אלהים 'ĕlohıym, the Eternal Supernatural Powers, coming into view.

  • Adam Clarke, writing in his Commentary:

    Gen 20:13 - When God caused me to wander -
    Here the word אלהים Elohim is used with a plural verb, (התעו hithu, caused me to wander), which is not very usual in the Hebrew language, as this plural noun is generally joined with verbs in the singular number. Because there is a departure from the general mode in this instance, some have contended that the word Elohim signifies princes in this place, and suppose it to refer to those in Chaldea, who expelled Abraham because he would not worship the fire; but the best critics, and with them the Jews, allow that Elohim here signifies the true God. Abraham probably refers to his first call.

'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#5 Evangelion

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Posted 11 February 2003 - 03:05 PM

  • Genesis 35:7
  • From the footnotes of the New English Translation:

    “revealed themselves.” The verb נגלו translated “revealed himself,” is plural, even though one expects the singular form with the plural of majesty. Perhaps אל בית is here a numerical plural, referring both to God and the angelic beings that appeared to Jacob. See the note on the word “know” in Gen 3:5.
  • Albert Barnes, writing in his Notes on the Bible:

    “There God revealed himself unto him.” The verb here נגלוּ nıglû is plural in the Masoretic Hebrew, and so it was in the copy of Onkelos. The Samaritan Pentateuch and the Septuagint have the singular. The reading is therefore, various. The original was probably singular, and may have been so even with its present letters. If not, this is one of the few instances in which Elohim is construed grammatically with a plural verb.

'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#6 Evangelion

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Posted 11 February 2003 - 03:05 PM

  • II Samuel 7:23
  • Most scholars pass over this verse without comment. The footnotes of the New English Translation make the following observation:

    The verb is plural in Hebrew, agreeing grammatically with the divine name, which is a plural of degree.

'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#7 Evangelion

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Posted 11 February 2003 - 03:06 PM

  • Psalm 58
  • Again, most scholars find nothing of significance here. The footnotes of the New English Translation read as follows:

    The plural participle is unusual here if the preceding àìäéí is here a plural of majesty, referring to the one true God. Occasionally the plural of majesty does take a plural attributive (see GKC §132.h). It is possible that the final mem on the participle is enclitic, and that it was later misunderstood as a plural ending. Another option is to translate, “Yes indeed, there are gods who judge in the earth.” In this case, the statement reflects the polytheistic mindset of pagan observers who, despite their theological ignorance, nevertheless recognize divine retribution when they see it.
So much for Fruchtenbaum's argument from textual variants.

Let us move on.
'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#8 Evangelion

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Posted 11 February 2003 - 03:07 PM

The Name Eloah
If the plural form Elohim was the only form available for a reference to God, then conceivably the argument might be made that the writers of the Hebrew Scriptures had no other alternative but to use the word Elohim for both the one true God and the many false gods.  However, the singular form for Elohim (Eloah) exists and is used in such passages as Deuteronomy 32:15-17 and Habakkuk 3:3.  This singular form could easily have been used consistently.  Yet it is only used 250 times, while the plural form is used 2,500 times.  The far greater use of the plural form again turns the argument in favor of plurality in the Godhead rather than against it.


Once again, Fruchtenbaum can only point to a vague possibility. He still has no concrete evidence for his claims. The fact that elohim is plural in form, does not mean that it is necessarily plural in its meaning. Indeed, elohim is not the only Hebrew noun that can be plural in form but singular in meaning. Such Hebrew noun forms are sometimes used for abstract nouns and as intensifiers. Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar devotes several pages to this subject. (The following list is by no means exhaustive, but serves to illustrate the point.)

Bearing in mind that the masculine plural ending is -im, while the feminine plural ending is -oth, consider these examples:
  • zequnim - old age (Genesis 21:2, 7; 37:3; 44:20.)
  • ne`urim - youth. David was only a boy (na`ar), but Goliath "has been a fighting man from his youth (ne`urim.)" (I Samuel 17:33.)
  • chayyim - life. This is used in the song "To life, to life, lechayyim" in the movie Fiddler on the Roof.
  • gebhuroth - strength. The singular form gebhurah is the usual word for strength, but the plural form is used in Job 41:12.
  • tsedaqoth - righteousness. The singular form tsedaqah is the usual word, but tsedaqoth is used in Isaiah 33:15 - "he who walks righteously (or "in righteousness.")
  • chokmoth - wisdom. Chokmah is the usual form, but chokmoth is used in Proverbs 1:20.
  • 'adonim - lord. 'Adon means "lord," and 'adonim normally means "lords," but Isaiah 19:4 says, "I will hand the Egyptians over to the power of a cruel master ('adonim.)"
  • behemoth. This word normally means "beasts", but in Job 40:15 it refers to one particular animal.
So the plurality of elohim is by no means unique, and therefore carries no special significance whatsoever. It is, in fact, nothing more than a peculiarity of Hebrew grammar. Plurality of form does not always indicate plurality of meaning in Hebrew, and our brief list (above) confirms this beyond any shadow of a doubt.

Hence... the words of Ethelyn Simon et al, in The First Hebrew Primer for Adults
"When (ELOHIM) refers to the God of Israel it is always singular in concept, even though it has a masculine plural ending."
(The citation is taken from the 2nd Edition, published in 1983.)

If Fruchtenbaum wishes to argue for a "plurality of persons within the Godhead", then we are at liberty to argue for:
  • A plurality of youths within Goliath.
  • A plurality of lords within the "cruel master" of Isaiah 19:4.
  • A plurality of beasts within Behemoth.
Fruchtenbaum's argument is not just illogical - it is patently absurd.
'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#9 Evangelion

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Posted 11 February 2003 - 03:07 PM

Plural Pronouns
Another case in point regarding Hebrew grammar is that often when God speaks of himself, he clearly uses the plural pronoun:

Genesis 1:26: Then God (Elohim) said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness ..."

He could hardly have made reference to angels since man was created in the image of God and not of angels.  The Midrash Rabbah on Genesis recognizes the strength of this passage and comments as follows:

Rabbi Samuel Bar Hanman in the name of Rabbi Jonathan said, that at the time when Moses wrote the Torah, writing a portion of it daily, when he came to the verse which says, "And Elohim said, let us make man in our image after our likeness," Moses said, "Master of the universe, why do you give here with an excuse to the sectarians (who believe in the Tri-unity of God)?"  God answered Moses, "You write and whoever wants to err, let him err."  (Midrash Rabbah on Genesis 1:26 [New York NOP Press, N.D.])

It is obvious that the Midrash Rabbah is simply trying to get around the problem and fails to answer adequately why God refers to himself in the plural.

The use of the plural pronoun can also be seen In the following:

Genesis 3:22: Then the LORD God (YHVH Elohim) said, "Behold, the man has become like one of Us''

Genesis 11:7: "Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language.''

Isaiah 6:8: Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: "Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?"

This last passage would appear contradictory with the singular "I" and the plural "us'' except as viewed as a plurality (us) in a unity (I).


Here Fruchtenbaum becomes recklessly overconfident. He claims that God uses plural pronouns "often" when speaking of Himself - but is that really true? Not at all! In fact, having made this outrageous claim, Fruchtenbaum presents a mere four verses out of the entire sixty-six books of the Bible! (Four verses... sixty-six books. Dear reader, is this what you would call "often"? Stop for a moment, and think about it...)

But, incredible as it may sound, Fruchtenbaum's argument relies heavily upon this hasty collation of "evidence" - so let us now examine his four verses and see what he makes of them:

Genesis 1:26: Then God (Elohim) said,"Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness...."

He could hardly have made reference to angels since man was created in the image of God and not of angels.


Firstly, this argument is spurious, since it presents a false dichotomy. It merely assumes that the word "image" indicates something which God alone possesses. (But what does Fruchtenbaum believe "image" to mean here? He does not say.) Nevertheless, regardless of how he chooses to interpret this word, there is one point which he has missed - namely, that if the angels share God's image, it makes perfect sense for God to say that He will create man in "our [his and the angels'] image." Fruchtenbaum does not address this possibility; he simply evades it.

So he has not actually addressed the point of Genesis 1:26. Instead, he has merely begged the question.

In order to prove his point, he must:
  • Tell us what he understands by the word "image" in Genesis 1:26.
  • Prove conclusively from Scripture that this is something that the angels do not share, and that humans alone possess.
But Fruchtenbaum does neither - and so we are at liberty to dismiss his claims without further ado.

By contrast, the footnote for Genesis 1:26 in the New English Translation provides a sensible, scholarly analysis:
The plural form of the verb has been the subject of much discussion through the years, and not surprisingly several suggestions have been put forward. Many Christian theologians interpret it as an early hint of plurality within the Godhead, but this view imposes later trinitarian concepts on the ancient text. Some have suggested the plural verb indicates majesty, but the plural of majesty is not used with verbs. C. Westermann (Genesis, 1:145) argues for a plural of “deliberation” here, but his proposed examples of this use (2 Sam 24:14; Isa 6:8) do not actually support his theory.

In 2 Sam 24:14 David uses the plural as representative of all Israel, and in Isa 6:8 the Lord speaks on behalf of his heavenly court. In its ancient Israelite context the plural is most naturally understood as referring to God and his heavenly court (see 1 Kgs 22:19-22; Job 1:6-12; 2:1-6; Isa 6:1-8). (The most well-known members of this court are God’s messengers, or angels. In Gen 3:5 the serpent may refer to this group as “gods/divine beings.” See the note on the word “evil” in 3:5.) If this is the case, God invites the heavenly court to participate in the creation of mankind (perhaps in the role of offering praise, see Job 38:7), but he himself is the one who does the actual creative work (v. 27).

Of course, this view does assume that the members of the heavenly court possess the divine “image” in some way. Since the image is closely associated with rulership, perhaps they share the divine image in that they, together with God and under his royal authority, are the executive authority over the world.

Speaking for myself, I argue that the "image" referred to in Genesis 1:26, is an outward form. This conclusion this is vindicated by the Hebrew text itself, as you will see in the article here.
'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#10 Evangelion

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Posted 11 February 2003 - 03:10 PM

The Shema

Deuteronomy 6:4: Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one!

Deuteronomy 6:4, known as the Shema, has always been Israel's great confession. It is this verse more than any other that is used to affirm the fact that God is one and is often used to contradict the concept of plurality in the Godhead. But is it a valid use of this verse?

On one hand, it should be noted that the very words "our God" are in the plural in the Hebrew text and literally mean "our Gods."


Here Fruchtenbaum falls back on his fallacious elohim argument. But in the Shema, this word appears in its usual form, and is therefore universally translated as "God." This does not denote a plurality of persons. Indeed, if it was intended to denote any kind of plurality at all, it could only be interpreted here as a reference to a plurality of gods!

Fruchtenbaum knows this perfectly well, which is why he spends no time on it at all, but instead hurries on to his piece de resistance:

However, the main argument lies in the word "one," which is a Hebrew word, echad.


Irrelevant.

A glance through the Hebrew text where the word is used elsewhere can quickly show that the word echad does not mean an absolute "one" but a compound "one."


This is a blatant lie. (I'll show you why in a moment.)

For instance, in Genesis 1:5, the combination of evening and morning comprise one (echad) day.


Irrelevant. There's nothing "plural" about a day. It's still one day. Echad here describes the day, not its components.

In Genesis 2:24, a man and a woman come together in marriage and the two "shall become one (echad) flesh."


Irrelevant. Adam and Eve not literally united as a literal compound entity. The phrase "one flesh" is metaphorical.

In Ezra 2:64, we are told that the whole assembly was as one (echad), though of course, it was composed of numerous people.


Irrelevant. The plurality is in "assembly", not echad.

Ezekiel 37:17 provides a rather striking example where two sticks are combined to become one (echad).


Irrrelevant. They're still referred to as one stick. Echad here describes the new, larger stick, not its components.

The use of the word echad in Scripture shows it to be a compound and not an absolute unity.


This is a blatant lie. Fruchtenbaum's "proof texts" are wantonly selective, and none of them prove that echad refers to a "compound one."

There is a Hebrew word that does mean an absolute unity and that is yachid, which is found in many Scripture passages,2 the emphasis being on the meaning of "only."


This is a blatant lie. It is not used in "many Scripture passages" - it only occurs twelve times in the entire Old Testament. But remember - we're hearing this from a man who referred to God's use of plural pronouns as "often" (when in fact this occurs no more than four times in the entire Bible.)

Food for thought.
'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#11 Evangelion

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Posted 11 February 2003 - 03:10 PM

If Moses intended to teach God's absolute oneness as over against a compound unity, this would have been a far more appropriate word.


This is a blatant lie. There is no need for the Shema to use yachid, when echad (which is used 969 times in the OT) is quite sufficient to indicate that the Deity consists of One Divine Person. Yachid is, after all, rarely used in Biblical Hebrew. (A mere twelve times, compared with the 969 occurrences of echad!)

It has been translated in several places as "darling"; it carries the meaning "only begotten son", or "solitary", and would therefore be inappropriate as reference to the God of Israel, Who is (1) not an only-begotten son, and (2) constantly surrounded by His angelic host (and therefore never solitary.) Trinitarians are fond of saying that yachid is never used in reference to God (which is true) - but with only twelve occurrences of this word in Scripture, you could say that about 99.9% of the people in the OT!

There is, however, another Hebrew word - bad which the Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew Lexicon defines in the following way:
áÌã

bad

1)
Alone, by itself, besides, a part, separation, being alone.

1a) Separation, alone, by itself.
1a1) Only (adverb.)
1a2) Part from, besides (preposition.)
1b) Part.
1c) Parts (eg limbs, shoots), bars.

This word is used to describe the One God of Judaism, and it first occurs in Genesis 2:18, describing Adam's state before the creation of Eve:
And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; [bad] I will make him a help meet for him.
So the absolute singularity of the One God is consistently emphasised when He is addressed, as we find in this tiny sample of the 202 places where bad is used:
  • Nehemiah 9:6.
    Thou art Yahweh alone [bad]
  • II Kings 19:5.
    Thou art God alone; [bad], the God of all the kingdoms of the earth
  • Psalm 83:18.
    That men may know that thou, whose name alone; [bad] is Yahweh
  • Psalm 86:10.
    Thou alone; [bad] art God
The reader will notice that there is not a great deal of room here for a "plurality of persons"...
'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#12 Evangelion

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Posted 11 February 2003 - 03:11 PM

In fact, Maimonides noted the strength of "yachid" and chose to use that word in his "Thirteen Articles of Faith" in place of echad.


Here Fruchtenbaum implies that Maimonides "recognised" the "plurality" of echad - which is simply not true. Maimonides preferred yachid to echad because he followed the Gematria (the Jewish mystical school of spiritual numerology) and considered yachid to be a far more appropriate way of expressing the oneness of God, since it carries a certain "uniqueness" that echad does not.

But his view is a minority position, even among Jewish numerologists. The vast majority of them still prefer echad because its numerical value (13) corresponds to the the numerical value of the Hebrew word for love (ahavah) which is also 13, and when these two are combined, they make 26, which is the numerical value of the Tetragrammmaton. So although Maimonides' choice of yachid carries weight with the Chassidic Jews, it means very little to anyone else.

However, Deuteronomy 6:4 (the Shema) does not use "yachid" in reference to God.


Irrelevant. The OT hardly ever uses this word at all.
'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#13 Evangelion

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Posted 11 February 2003 - 03:12 PM

Now I would like to address Fruchtenbaum's spurious claims about the meaning and significance of echad - claims that he has made absolutely no attempt to support from standard authorities such as lexicons, concordances or linguists.

While it is true that echad is sometimes found modifying a collective noun (one family, one herd, one bunch, etc.) the sense of plurality actually resides in the compound noun with which it is associated, and not in the word echad itself! Echad appears in standard translations of the Bible as the numeral "one", and also as "only", "alone", "undivided", and "single." It usually means "one and not two", as we find in Ecclesiastes 4:8. Abraham was "only one man" (echad) in the New International Version's rendition of Ezekiel 33:24, and he was "alone" (echad) in the King James translation of Isaiah 51:2.

Koehler and Baumgartner's Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (1967) clearly states that the fundamental definition of echad is "one single." Any plurality, therefore, is not found within the word itself, but in the subject to which it is applied.

Likewise, the Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew Lexicon defines echad in the following way:
àçã

'echâd

1)
One (number.)

1a) One (number.)
1b) Each, every.
1c) A certain.
1d) An (indefinite article.)
1e) Only, once, once for all.
1f) One...another, the one...the other, one after another, one by one.
1g) First.
1h) Eleven (in combination), eleventh (ordinal.)

The consistent theme running through all of these examples is... singularity, not "compound unity" (as Fruchtenbaum would have us believe.)

Writing in his Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament, Gesenius defines echad in the following way:
A NUMERAL HAVING THE POWER OF AN ADJECTIVE.

1. The same, Genesis 40:5, Job 31:15.

2. First, but only so used in counting the days of the months, Ezra 10:16, 17; in counting years, Daniel 9:1,2, Ezra 1:1. In other places as Genesis 1:5, one does not lose the common idea of a cardinal, and the numbers follow one another as in Latin unus, alter, tertius.

3. Some one, "some one of the people;" "no one."

4. It acts the part of an indefinite article, especially in the later Hebrew, 1 Kings 20:13, "a certain prophet;" Daniel 8:3, "a ram," 1 Kings 19:4. So also when one precedes, e.g. "a certain holy one," i.e. angel Daniel 8:13. Sometimes also by a genitive "one of the cisterns," i.e. some cistern, Genesis 37:20; Job 2:10.

5. One only of its kind, Job 23:13; Ezekiel 7:5, Canticles 6:9. 6. When repeated it is one...another, Exodus 17:12; 18:3. It even occurs three times repeated, 1 Samuel 10:3; 13:17, 18. Also distributively of individuals, Number. 13:2, "ye shall send one man to a tribe;" Numbers 34:18.

7. As one man, i.e. together. Ezra 2:64, "the whole congregation together;" Ezra 3:9; 6:20; Ecclesiastes 11:6, "both alike." Also i.q. "together, unitedly," Isaiah 65:25; in the same sense is said Judges 20:8; 1 Samuel 11:7.

8. For one time, once, 2 Kings 6:10; Psalms 62:12.

9. (a) i.q. No. 8, Num. 10:4. (B) Suddenly, Pro. 28:18. © i.q. altogether, Jer. 10:8. 10. One after another, one by one, Isa 27:12, and Ecc. 7:27, one after another..."


'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#14 Evangelion

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Posted 11 February 2003 - 03:12 PM

The simple truth of the matter is that the word echad could be replaced with the Hebrew words for "two", "three", "four", or any other number - and in every case, the "complex unity" would not be found in the number itself, but in the subject to which it is applied!

Let's take a few examples, using English:
  • One pair. (The "compound unity" here is "pair" - not "one.")
  • One triplet. (The "compound unity" here is "triplet" - not "one.")
  • One bunch. (The "compound unity" here is "bunch" - not "one.")
  • One herd. (The "compound unity" here is "herd" - not "one.")
This is no different to the use of echad (or any other number) in Hebrew. As always, it is the subject which denotes the "compound unity", not the number itself.

Finally, it is with considerable satisfaction that I now quote Gregory Boyd (the indefatigable Trinitarian apologist), who has conceded that the echad argument is totally useless for Trinitarian purposes:
Even weaker is the argument that the Hebrew word for "one" (echad) used in the Shema ("Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord") refers to a united one, not an absolute one. Hence, some Trinitarians have argued, the Old Testament has a view of a united Godhead. It is, of course, true that the meaning of the word may in some contexts denote a unified plurality (e.g. Gen. 2:24, "they shall become one flesh").

But this really proves nothing. An examination of the Old Testament usage reveals that the word echad is as capable of various meanings as is our English word one. The context must determine whether a numerical or unified singularity is intended.

Boyd, Gregory (1995), Oneness Pentecostals and the Trinity.
Notwithstanding this concession, you will often see Trinitarians claiming that echad denotes a "complex unity." Nothing could be further from the truth. Echad is the Hebrew word for "one", and it operates in the same way as the English word for "one."

Most Trinitarians do not realise this because they will usually accept what they are told without questioning it. Indeed, a quick search on Google will show that there are countless Trinitarian Websites which use the echad argument (1) without referencing sources, (2) without providing any of the OT examples which clearly demonstrate an alternative application, and (3) without citing a concordance or lexicon.

That is the "quality" of the arguments to which we Unitarians are so frequently subjected...
'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#15 Evangelion

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Posted 11 February 2003 - 03:13 PM

Fruchtenbaum's final assault is even weaker than his first.

II. God Is At Least Two

Elohim and YHVH Applied to Two Personalities

As if to even make the case for plurality stronger, there are situations in the Hebrew Scriptures where the term Elohim is applied to two personalities in the same verse. One example is Psalm 45:7-8:

"Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom. You love righteousness and hate wickedness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You With the oil of gladness more than Your companions."

It should be noted that the first Elohim is being addressed and the second Elohim is the God of the first Elohim. And so God's God has anointed Him with the oil of gladness.


This is ridiculous argument. It requires very little comment, and I can refute it by reference to the footnotes contained in the New English Translation:
O God. The king is clearly the addressee here, as in vv. 2-5 and 7-9. Rather than taking the statement at face value, many prefer to emend the text because the concept of deifying the earthly king is foreign to ancient Israelite thinking (cf. NEB ‘your throne is like God’s throne, eternal’). However, it is preferable to retain the text and take this statement as another instance of the royal hyperbole that permeates the royal psalms. Because the Davidic king is God’s vice-regent on earth, the psalmist addresses him as if he were God incarnate. God energizes the king for battle and accomplishes justice through him. A similar use of hyperbole appears in Isa 9:6, where the ideal Davidic king of the eschaton is given the title ‘Mighty God’ (see the note on this phrase there).

Ancient Near Eastern art and literature picture gods training kings for battle, bestowing special weapons, and intervening in battle. According to Egyptian propaganda, the Hittites described Rameses II as follows: ‘No man is he who is among us, It is Seth great-of-strength, Baal in person; Not deeds of man are these his doings, They are of one who is unique’ (see M. Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature, 2:67). Ps 45:6 and Isa. 9:6 probably envision a similar kind of response when friends and foes alike look at the Davidic king in full battle regalia. When the king’s enemies oppose him on the battlefield, they are, as it were, fighting against God himself.

There is only one true deity here - and that is the Father, not the Son.

See also the footnotes in the New American Bible:
O god: the king, in courtly language, is called ‘god,’ i.e., more than human, representing God to the people. Hebrews 1:8-9 applies Psalm 45:7-8 to Christ.
Fruchtenbaum is simply presenting a false dilemma - nothing more. His argument requires both "gods" to be part of the Godhead, and yet neither of them are referred to in this way.
'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#16 Evangelion

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Posted 11 February 2003 - 03:13 PM

A second example is Hosea 1:7:

"Yet I will have mercy on the house of Judah, will save them by the LORD their God, and will not save them by bow, nor by sword or battle, by horses or horsemen."

The speaker is Elohim who says He will have mercy on the house of Judah and will save them by the instrumentality of YHVH, their Elohim. So Elohim number one will save Israel by means of Elohim number two.


Another false dichotomy. This is just one of several passages in the OT where God refers to Himself in the third person.

Hence:
Isaiah 44:6-8.
Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and his [Israel's] redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God.
And who, as I, shall call, and shall declare it, and set it in order for me, since I appointed the ancient people? and the things that are coming, and shall come, let them show unto them.
Fear ye not, neither be afraid: have not I told thee from that time, and have declared it? ye are even my witnesses. Is there a God beside me? yea, there is no God; I know not any.
It is not uncommon for Yahweh to multiply His own titles within the context of a single address. It is one of the ways in which His majesty is emphasised. He presents Himself as (1) King of Israel, (2) Israel's redeemer, (3) Yahweh of armies, and (4) First and Last. Notice also the consistent use of singular personal pronouns, by which we know that a single Divine Person is speaking, and a single Divine Person lays claim to the divine titles in this passage.
'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#17 Evangelion

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Posted 11 February 2003 - 03:13 PM

Not only is Elohim applied to two personalities in the same verse, but so is the very name of God.


Irrelevant. See Exodus 7 & Psalm 45.

One example is Genesis 19:24 which reads:

"Then the LORD rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, from the LORD out of the heavens."

Clearly we have YHVH number one raining fire and brimstone from a second YHVH who is in heaven, the first one being on earth.


The reference is to the "angel of Yahweh's presence", who represents Him on special missions to Earth. This angel bears God's name on His behalf, acting as His divine representative. He appeared to Moses in the burning bush, speaking as if he himself was truly God, and bearing the Tetragrammaton as God's unique delegate. Some Trinitarians have tried to claim that this angel was actually "the pre-incarnate Christ." That is mere speculation, and there is not a shred of evidence to support it. By contrast, the early Christians understood that this angel was not Christ, but actually the angel of Yahweh.

Hence the words of Stephen:
Acts 7:30-33, 35, 38.
And when forty years were expired, there appeared to him in the wilderness of mount Sina an angel of the Lord in a flame of fire in a bush.
When Moses saw it, he wondered at the sight: and as he drew near to behold it, the voice of the LORD came unto him,
Saying, I am the God of thy fathers, the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. Then Moses trembled, and durst not behold.
Then said the Lord to him, Put off thy shoes from thy feet: for the place where thou standest is holy ground.

[…]

This Moses whom they refused, saying, Who made thee a ruler and a judge? the same did God send to be a ruler and a deliverer by the hand of the angel which appeared to him in the bush.

[…]

This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us:
As far as Stephen is concerned, this angel who spoke to Moses from the burning bush, was the same angel who spoke to Moses and the elders of Israel on Mt Sinai. It was not literally God Himself, and it was definitely not Christ.

The point is confirmed by the Gospel of Luke:
Luke 2:9-11.
And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.
Here "the angel of Yahweh" appears to the shepherds and announces the birth of Christ. Obviously, "the angel of Yahweh" cannot possibly be Christ, who was actually lying in a manger at this point in time...
'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#18 Evangelion

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Posted 11 February 2003 - 03:14 PM

A second example is Zechariah 2:8-9:

For thus says the LORD of Hosts: "He sent Me after glory, to the nations which plunder you; for he that touches you touches the apple of His eye. For surely I will shake My hand against them, and they shall become spoil for their servants. Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent Me."

Again, we have one YHVH sending another YHVH to perform a specific task.


No, we don't. What we have is a very poor display of reading comprehension on the part of Dr Fruchtenbaum.

Let's check the New English Translation again:
Zechariah 2:1-13.
I looked again, and there was a man with a measuring line in his hand.
I asked, “Where are you going?” He replied, “To measure Jerusalem in order to determine its width and its length.”
At this point the angelic messenger who spoke to me went out, and another messenger came to meet him
and said to him, “Hurry, speak to this young man as follows: ‘Jerusalem will no longer be enclosed by walls because of the multitude of people and animals there.
But I (the Lord says) will be a wall of fire surrounding Jerusalem and the source of glory in her midst.’”
“You there! Flee from the northland!” says the Lord, “for like the four winds of heaven I have scattered you,” says the Lord.
“Escape, Zion, you who live among the Babylonians!”
For the sovereign Lord says to me that for his own glory he has sent me to the nations that plundered you—for anyone who touches you touches the pupil of his eye.
“I am about to punish them in such a way,” he says, “that they will be looted by their own slaves.” Then you will know that the sovereign Lord has sent me.
“Sing out and be happy, Zion my daughter! For look, I have come; I will settle in your midst,” says the Lord.
“Many nations will join themselves to the Lord on the day of salvation, and they will also be my people. Indeed, I will settle in the midst of you all.” Then you will know that the sovereign Lord has sent me to you.
The Lord will take possession of Judah as his portion in the holy land and he will choose Jerusalem once again.
Be silent in the Lord’s presence, all people everywhere, for he is being moved to action in his holy dwelling place.
The addition of quotation marks enables us to delineate between the prophet (the first speaker) and God (the second speaker), Who is represented here by two different angels. It is not a case of "one YHVH sending another YHVH to perform a specific task" (as Mr Fruchtenbaum hilariously suggests) but a case of the prophet saying that when these things come to pass, the people of Israel will know "that Yahweh hath sent me." That is made abundantly clear by the context, and confirmed by the NET's careful (and consistent) use of quotation marks.
'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#19 Evangelion

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Posted 11 February 2003 - 03:15 PM

The author of the Zohar sensed plurality in the Tetragrammaton and wrote:

"Come and see the mystery of the word YHVH: there are three steps, each existing by itself: nevertheless they are One, and so united that one cannot be separated from the other. The Ancient Holy One is revealed with three heads, which are united into one, and that head is three exalted. The Ancient One is described as being three: because the other lights emanating from him are included in the three. But how can three names be one? Are they really one because we call them one? How three can be one can only be known through the revelation of the Holy Spirit."


This is arguably one of the most deceptive misquotes in the entire history of Trinitarian eisegesis.

Follow me closely here:
  • Fruchtenbaum cites the Zohar, which is not an orthodox text. It would be like asking a Protestant to accept an argument from the Apocrypha.
  • The Zohar is the foundation of Cabbalism, not Judaism. Even if the Cabbalists had believed in a Trinity (which they clearly didn't) it would mean nothing in the context of true Judaism and the unadulterated message of the OT Scriptures.
  • When the Cabbalists refer to the "three degees", they do not mean three persons in the Godhead. They refer variously to (a) the "three degrees" of "breath, spirit and soul", (B) the Shema's three-fold reference to God, and © the first three numbers of the Sephirot.
  • The words "Jehovah, Elohenu, Jehovah" do not constitute three names of God. Elohenu is not a name of God at all (it actually means "our God", as we see from Deuteronomy 6:4), while Jehovah is an Anglicised version of Yahweh, which is the name of God.
A brief quote from a Cabbalist Website will serve to demonstrate the point:
In the Zohar (the classic text of Kabbalah) and other Jewish sources, we find that there are three (manifestations of G-dliness) which are essentially One: G-d, Israel and the Torah. The Zohar states: ‘Israel, the Torah and the Holy One Blessed Be He are One.’ As explained above, before the contraction, from the perspective of G-d (and the origin of the Jewish soul), these three are manifestly revealed as absolutely One.

[…]

No Jew would ever dream of regarding the People of Israel as an entity unto itself, and praying to it, G-d forb id. Such a thought does not even enter into Jewish consciousness. The same is true with regard to the Torah. The Torah is the holy spirit of G-d. But no Jew would ever dream of relating to the Torah as an independent entity. The Jewish soul, from Atzilut, never makes the mistake of attaching independent reality to one of G-d's manifestations.


[…]

The consciousness of the non-Jew derives from one of the three lower worlds of Beriah ("Creation"), Yetzirah ("Formation"), Asiyah ("Action"), which perceive plurality as plurality. From this perspective, the "Father," "son," and "spirit" appear as three separate entities. The claim, from the perspective of non-Jewish consciousness, that they are essentially one is immaterial. The non-Jewish consciousness is unable to truly unify the three and to understand that their essence is one. They perceive each of the three as possessing such a strong "personality" of its own that it can exist independently. This is idolatry.

Full text available here.
It is sad to see Fruchtenbaum wantonly distorting his people's own mystical traditions in a feeble attempt to seduce them away from the one true God of Judaism.
'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#20 Evangelion

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Posted 11 February 2003 - 03:15 PM

III. God Is Three
How Many Persons Are There?

If the Hebrew Scriptures truly do point to plurality, the question arises, how many personalities in the Godhead exist? We have already seen the names of God applied to at least two different personalities. Going through the Hebrew Scriptures, we find that, in fact, three and only three distinct personalities are ever considered divine.


The truth of the matter is that we find a multitude of divine beings (such as the angels), but only one being who is described as “The Only True God.”

That being is Yahweh of Israel – known to us as the Father.
'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.




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