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Abrahamic Religion and the Trinity

By Father Christian W. Kappes

Introduction

Abstract (Summary)

The religion of Abraham is appealed to by Jews, Christians, and Muslims as the source for their knowledge of the one God. It is a misconception that First Temple and Second Temple Jews spoke and interpreted the Scriptures to exclude the fact that Yahweh (Jehovah) had different personalities. In fact, from the beginning of the Abrahamic religion, Abraham’s Semitic context, his historical context, and his experience of revelation all show that acknowledged the one God in three persons. However, this doctrine was, in sundry and less precise ways carried on by ancient Jewish interpreters of the Old Testament, culminating in the 1st Century AD with the most respected and celebrated Jewish scholars acknowledging one God in three eternal real personalities. The language of the Old Testament and Jewish Scriptures have the same concepts as what is meant by our Trinity but using more metaphors and mystical experiences to teach the same truth.

Abrahamic Religion and the Trinity

Premise #1

Before Yahweh, He was God of Heaven[1]

(Then God of heaven and earth; then heaven, earth, and sea)

Genesis 1:1-3 – God of heaven and earth:

In the beginning God (Elohim) created the heavens and the earthThe earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit (we-ruah) of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Then God said (cf. Psalm 33:9; Psalm 148:8), “Let there be light”; and there was light.

Genesis 14:22 – God of heaven and earth for cultic worship:

And he blessed him and said: “Blessed be Abram of God (le-el) Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth;

Genesis 27:28 – Therefore may God give you of the dew of heaven, Of the fatness of the earth, And plenty of grain and wine.

Psalm 146:6 – heaven, earth, sea

Who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them; Who keeps truth forever

Premise #2

“Come Let Us Create Man in Our Own Image” (Genesis 1:26) is Trinitarian

Akkadian-Babylonian Noah story (Atra-hasis):

Let us confront our Chamberlain And get him to relieve us of our hard work! Come, let us carry the Lord the counselor of the gods, the warrior from his dwelling. […]

Come, let us carry the counselor of the gods, the warrior, from his dwelling. Come, let us carry Enlil, The counselor of the gods, the warrior, from his dwelling. Now, cry battle! Let us mix fight with battle! […]

Saying “every single one of us gods Declared war We have put a stop to the digging. The load is excessive, it is killing us! Our work is too hard, the trouble too much, So every single one of us gods Has agreed to complain to Enlil!”

Genesis:

Then they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They had brick for stone, and they had asphalt for mortar. And they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” (Genesis 11:3-4)

[Hebrews adopted the most celebrated idioms in the most famous literature like the Enuma Elish. I should add that when we combine this with (the Christian) Dr. Wilhelm Schmidt’s ethnographic studies (Der Ursprung der Gottesidee) on primitive religion, we expect that primitive religion is monotheistic of a Great sky Father and that subsequent hunter-gather and farming complexities in society lead to dividing his attributes -from organizable data studied- into hypostasizations of divine attributes as society itself becomes more complex. The inference of Genesis 1:26 would be that farming has occurred that leads to invoke a second (or more) divine being to make the earth cooperate with new conditions for survival dependent on earth-fertility. The sky Father is no longer enough to invoke. Angels of the Lord come to the earth or perform miracles above the sea and are givers of fertility (e.g., Judges 13; Samson’s mom sitting in a field at the deity’s coming). Thus, the ethnographic origins of the one and the many. As such, the “we” bespeaks a more complex society in which the primitive sky god (cloud rider) is divvied up into various patron deities. Anyway, mere inferences from what data a posteriori exists, but complementary, I should think, to an Akkadian-key reading (?) to Genesis 1:26 (quasi-Urmonotheismus). 1 Samuel 9:5 When they had come to the land of Zuph, Saul said to his servant who was with him, “Come, let us return, lest my father cease caring about the donkeys and become worried about us.” The “let us make” and “come let us” is all over the Hebrew Bible and is hardly royal.]

Akkadian (Semitic or mother tongue to Hebrew and Arabic) Atrahasis (Story of Noah) chapter 1:122-125 (Story known before 2000 BC)

122 In the assembly of [ all the gods]

123 Bow down, stand up, [and repeat to them] our [words]:

124 “Anu, [your father],

125 Your counsellor/messenger [= angel (ma-li-ik-ku-nu = [Arabic] malakakum or milakik), the warrior] Enlil,

Premise #3

Genesis 1:1-3 and Genesis 1:26 fully make sense in light of Genesis 18: A Trinity of Persons

Genesis 18:1-8

Then the Lord appeared to him by the terebinth trees of Mamre, as he was sitting in the tent door in the heat of the day. So he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, three men ([Hebrew] ă·nā·šîm) were standing by him; and when he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them, and bowed himself to the ground, and said, “My Lord ([Hebrew] adonai = [Arabic] Rabb), if I have now found favor in Your sight, do not pass on by Your servant. Please let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree. And I will bring a morsel of bread, that you may refresh your hearts. After that you may pass by, inasmuch as you have come to your servant.” They said, “Do as you have said.”So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah and said, “Quickly, make ready three measures of fine meal; knead it and make cakes.” And Abraham ran to the herd, took a tender and good calf, gave it to a young man, and he hastened to prepare it. So he took butter and milk and the calf which he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree as they ate.

Philo’s homily On the Godhead, preserved only in Armenian

After this it is said: Three men stood above him (Gen 18:2). . . . This [Creator] appears to his own disciple and righteous pupil surrounded on either side by his powers, the heads of armies and archangels, who all worship the Chief Leader in the midst of them (Isa 6:1–3). The One in their midst is called Being; this name, “Being,” is not his own and proper name, for he himself is unnamable and beyond expression, as being incomprehensible. . . . Of his two body-guards on either side, one is God, the other Lord, the former being the symbol of the creative, the latter of the royal virtue. Concerning the three men, it seems to me that this oracle of God has been written in the Law: I will speak to you from above the mercy seat, from between the two Cherubim (Exod 25:21). As these powers are winged, they fittingly throne on a winged chariot [Ezek 1] over the whole cosmos. . . . In the midst of whom he is found [the text] shows clearly by calling them “cherubim.” One of these is ascribed to the creative power and is rightly called God; the other to the sovereign and royal virtue and is called Lord. . . . This vision woke up the prophet Isaiah and caused him to rise.14

Acts

For Sadducees say that there is no resurrection—and no angel or spirit μήτε ἄγγελον μήτε
πνεῦμα; but the Pharisees confess both. (Acts 23:8)

John 12:28 “Father, glorify Your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, saying, “I have both glorified it and will glorify it again.”29 Therefore the people who stood by and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to Him.”

Koran (Arberry Translation): Chapter 11:69-70:

69 Our messengers came to Abraham with the good tidings; they said, ´Peace!´ ´Peace,´ he said; and presently he brought a roasted calf.

70 And when he saw their hands not reaching towards it, he was suspicious of them and conceived a fear of them. They said, ´Fear not; we have been sent to the people of Lot

Koran Chapter 5:75:

75The Messiah, son of Mary, was only a Messenger; Messengers before him passed away; his mother was a just woman; they both ate food. Behold, how We make clear the signs to them; then behold, how they perverted are!

Genesis 19:19

Now the two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them, and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground. And he said, “Here now, my lords, please turn in to your servant’s house and spend the night, and wash your feet; then you may rise early and go on your way.” And they said, “No, but we will spend the night in the open square.” But he insisted strongly; so they turned in to him and entered his house. Then he made them a feast, and baked unleavened bread, and they ate.15 When the morning dawned, the angels urged Lot to hurry, saying, “Arise, take your wife and your two daughters who are here, lest you be consumed in the punishment of the city.” 16 And while he lingered, the men took hold of his hand, his wife’s hand, and the hands of his two daughters, the Lord being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city. 17 So it came to pass, when they had brought them outside, that he said, “Escape for your life! Do not look behind you nor stay anywhere in the plain. Escape to the mountains, lest you be destroyed.” 18 Then Lot said to them, “Please, no, my lords ([Hebrew] adonay = [Arabic] arbaban19 Indeed now, your servant has found favor in your sight, and you have increased your mercy which you have shown me by saving my life; but I cannot escape to the mountains, lest some evil overtake me and I die. 20 See now, this city is near enough to flee to, and it is a little one; please let me escape there (is it not a little one?) and my soul shall live.”21 And he said to him, “See, I have favored you concerning this thing also, in that I will not overthrow this city for which you have spoken. 22 Hurry, escape there. For I cannot do anything until you arrive there.” Therefore the name of the city was called Zoar. 23 The sun had risen upon the earth when Lot entered Zoar. 24 Then the Lord rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, from the Lord out of the heavens.

Koran 29:33-34

33 The people of Lot cried lies to the warnings.

34 We [two angels of the Lord] loosed against them a squall of pebbles except the folk of Lot; We delivered them at the dawn –

Koran 3:64, 78-80

chapter 3:64 Say: ´People of the Book! Come now to a word common between us and you, that we serve none but God, and that we associate not aught with Him, and do not some of us take others as Lords, apart from God.´ And if they turn their backs, say: ´Bear witness that we are Muslims.´[…]

78 And there is a sect of them twist their tongues with the Book, that you may suppose it part of the Book, yet it is not part of the Book; and they say, ´It is from God,´ yet it is not from God, and they speak falsehood against God, and that wittingly.

79 It belongs not to any mortal that God should give him the Book, the Judgment, the Prophethood, then he should say to men, ´Be you servants to me apart from God.´ Rather, ´Be you masters in that you know the Book, and in that you study.´

80 He would never order you to take the angels and the Prophets as Lords; what, would He order you to disbelieve, after you have surrendered?

Passage #6: Exodus 23:20-22

20 “Behold, I send an Angel before you to keep you in the way and to bring you into the place which I have prepared. 21 Beware of Him and obey His voice; do not provoke Him, for He will not pardon your transgressions; for My name is in Him. 22 But if you indeed obey His voice and do all that I speak, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries.

  1. (154) Now Abram having no son of his own, adopted Lot, his brother Haran’s son, and his wife Sarai’s brother; and he left the land of Chaldea when he was seventy-five years old, and at the command of God went into Canaan, and therein he dwelt himself, and left it to his posterity. He was a person of great sagacity, both for understanding all things and persuading his hearers, and not mistaken in his opinions; (155) for which reason he began to have higher notions of virtue than others had, and he determined to renew and to change the opinion all men happened then to have concerning God; for he was the first that ventured to publish this notion, That there was but one God, the Creator of the universe; and that, as to other [gods], if they contributed anything to the happiness of men, that each of them afforded it only according to his appointment, and not by their own power. (156) This his opinion was derived from the irregular phenomena that were visible both at land and sea, as well as those that happen to the sun and moon, and all the heavenly bodies, thus:—“If [said he] these bodies had power of their own, they would certainly take care of their own regular motions; but since they do not preserve such regularity, they make it plain, that in so far as they cooperate to our advantage, they do it not of their own abilities, but as they are subservient to him that commands them; to whom alone we ought justly to offer our honor and thanksgiving.” (157) For which doctrines, when the Chaldeans and other people of Mesopotamia raised a tumult against him, he thought fit to leave that country; and at the command, and by the assistance of God, he came and lived in the land of Canaan. And when he was there settled, he built an altar, and performed a sacrifice to God. [2]

[1] Deuteronomy 33:26: “There is no one like the God of Jeshurun, who rides the heavens to help you, and in His excellency on the clouds.”

[2] Josephus, F., & Whiston, W. (1987). The works of Josephus: complete and unabridged (p. 38). Peabody: Hendrickson.

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