God - Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible

GOD.—The object of this article is to give a brief sketch of the history of belief in God as gathered from the Bible. The existence of God is everywhere assumed in the sacred volume; it will not therefore be necessary here to consider the arguments adduced to show that the belief in God’s existence is reasonable. It is true that in Psa 14:1; Psa 53:1 the ‘fool’ (i.e. the ungodly man) says that there is no God; but the meaning doubtless is, not that the existence of God is denied, but that the ‘fool’ alleges that God does not concern Himself with man (see Psa 10:4).

1. Divine revelation gradual.—God ‘spake,’ i.e. revealed Himself, ‘by divers portions and in divers manners’ (Heb 1:1). The world only gradually acquired the knowledge of God which we now possess; and it is therefore a gross mistake to look for our ideas and standards of responsibility in the early ages of mankind. The world was educated ‘precept upon precept, line upon line’ (Isa 28:10); and it is noteworthy that even when the gospel age arrived, our Lord did not in a moment reveal all truth, but accommodated His teaching to the capacity of the people (Mar 4:33); the chosen disciples themselves did not grasp the fulness of that teaching until Pentecost (Joh 16:12 f.). The fact of the very slow growth of conceptions of God is made much clearer by our increased knowledge with respect to the composition of the OT; now that we have learnt, for example, that the Mosaic code is to be dated, as a whole, centuries later than Moses, and that the patriarchal narratives were written down, as we have them, in the time of the Kings, and are coloured by the ideas of that time, we see that the idea that Israel had much the same conception of God in the age of the Patriarchs as in that of the Prophets is quite untenable, and that the fuller conception was a matter of slow growth. The fact of the composite character of the Pentateuch, however, makes it very difficult for us to find out exactly what were the conceptions about God in patriarchal and in Mosaic times; and it is impossible to be dogmatic in speaking of them. We can deal only with probabilities gathered from various indications in the literature, especially from the survival of old customs.

2. Names of God in OT.—It will be convenient to gather together the principal OT names of God before considering the conceptions of successive ages. The names will to some extent be a guide to us.

(a) Elohim; the ordinary Hebrew name for God, a plural word of doubtful origin and meaning. It is used, as an ordinary plural, of heathen gods, or of supernatural beings (1Sa 28:13), or even of earthly judges (Psa 82:1; Psa 82:5, cf. Joh 10:34); but when used of the One God, it takes a singular verb. As so used, it has been thought to be a relic of pre-historic polytheism, but more probably it is a ‘plural of majesty,’ such as is common in Hebrew, or else it denotes the fulness of God. The singular Eloah is rare except in Job; it is found in poetry and in late prose.

(b) El, common to Semitic tribes, a name of doubtful meaning, but usually interpreted as ‘the Strong One’ or as ‘the Ruler.’ It is probably not connected philologically with Elohim (Driver, Genesis, p. 404). It is used often in poetry and in proper names; in prose rarely, except as part of a compound title like El Shaddai, or with an epithet or descriptive word attached; as ‘God of Bethel,’ El-Bethel (Gen 31:13); ‘a jealous God,’ El qannâ’ (Exo 20:5).

(c) El Shaddai.—The meaning of Shaddai is uncertain; the name has been derived from a root meaning ‘to overthrow,’ and would then mean ‘the Destroyer’; or from a root meaning ‘to pour,’ and would then mean ‘the Rain-giver’; or it has been interpreted as ‘my Mountain’ or ‘my Lord.’ Traditionally it is rendered ‘God Almighty,’ and there is perhaps a reference to this sense of the name in the words ‘He that is mighty’ of Luk 1:49. According to the Priestly writer (P [Note: Priestly Narrative.] ), the name was characteristic of the patriarchal age (Exo 6:3, cf. Gen 17:1; Gen 28:3). ‘Shaddai’ alone is used often in OT as a poetical name of God (Num 24:4 etc.), and is rendered ‘the Almighty.’

(d) El Elyon, ‘God Most High,’ found in Gen 14:18 ff. (a passage derived from a ‘special source’ of the Pentateuch, i.e. not from J [Note: Jahwist.] , E [Note: Elohist.] , or P [Note: Priestly Narrative.] ), and thought by Driver (Genesis, p. 165) perhaps to have been originally the name of a Canaanite deity, but applied to the true God. ‘Elyon’ is also found alone, as in Psa 82:5 (so tr. [Note: translate or translation.] into Greek, Luk 1:32; Luk 1:35; Luk 1:76; Luk 6:35), and with ‘Elohim’ in Psa 57:2, in close connexion with ‘El’ and with ‘Shaddai’ in Num 24:15, and with ‘Jahweh’ in Psa 7:17; Psa 18:13 etc. That ‘El Elyon’ was a commonly used name is made probable by the fact that it is found in an Aramaic translation in Dan 3:26; Dan 4:2; Dan 5:18-21 and in a Greek translation in 1Es 6:31 etc., Mar 5:7, Act 16:17, and so in Heb 7:1, where it is taken direct from Gen 14:18 LXX [Note: Septuagint.] .

(e) Adonai (= ‘Lord’), a title, common in the prophets, expressing dependence, as of a servant on his master, or of a wife on her husband (Ottley, BL2 p. 192 f.).

(f) Jehovah, properly Yahweh (usually written Jahweh), perhaps a pre-historic name. Prof. H. Guthe (EBi [Note: Encyclopædia Biblica.] ii. art. ‘Israel,’ § 4) thinks that it is of primitive antiquity and cannot be explained; that it tells us nothing about the nature of the Godhead. This is probably true of the name in pre-Mosaic times; that it was then in existence was certainly the opinion of the Jahwist writer (Gen 4:25, J [Note: Jahwist.] ), and is proved by its occurrence in proper names, e.g. in ‘Jochebed,’ the name of Moses’ mother (Exo 6:20, P [Note: Priestly Narrative.] ). What it originally signified is uncertain; the root from which it is derived might mean ‘to blow’ or ‘to breathe,’ or ‘to fall,’ or ‘to be.’ Further, the name might have been derived from the causative ‘to make to be,’ and in that case might signify ‘Creator.’ But, as Driver remarks (Genesis, p. 409), the important thing for us to know is not what the name meant originally, but what it came actually to denote to the Israelites. And there can be no doubt that from Moses’ time onwards it was derived from the ‘imperfect’ tense of the verb ‘to be,’ and was understood to mean ‘He who is wont to be,’ or else ‘He who will be.’ This is the explanation given in Exo 3:10 ff.; when God Himself speaks, He uses the first person, and the name becomes ‘I am’ or ‘I will be.’ It denotes, then, Existence; yet it is understood as expressing active and self-manifesting Existence (Driver, p. 408). It is almost equivalent to ‘He who has life in Himself’ (cf. Joh 5:26). It became the common name of God in post-Mosaic times, and was the specially personal designation.

We have to consider whether the name was used by the patriarchs. The Jahwist writer (J [Note: Jahwist.] ) uses it constantly in his narrative of the early ages; and Gen 4:26 (see above) clearly exhibits more than a mere anachronistic use of a name common in the writer’s age. On the other hand, the Priestly writer (P [Note: Priestly Narrative.] ) was of opinion that the patriarchs had not used the name, but had known God as ‘El Shaddai’ (Exo 6:2 f.); for it is putting force upon language to suppose that P [Note: Priestly Narrative.] meant only that the patriarchs did not understand the full meaning of the name ‘Jahweh,’ although they used it. P [Note: Priestly Narrative.] is consistent in not using the name ‘Jahweh until the Exodus. So the author of Job, who lays his scene in the patriarchal age, makes the characters of the dialogue use Shaddai,’ etc., and only once (12:9) ‘Jahweh’ (Driver, p. 185). We have thus contradictory authorities. Driver (p. xix.) suggests that though the name was not absolutely new in Moses’ time, it was current only in a limited circle, as is seen from its absence in the composition of patriarchal proper names.

‘Jehovah’ is a modern and hybrid form, dating only from a.d. 1518. The name ‘Jahweh’ was so sacred that it was not, in later Jewish times, pronounced at all, perhaps owing to an over-literal interpretation of the Third Commandment. In reading ‘Adonai’ was substituted for it; hence the vowels of that name were in MSS attached to the consonants of ‘Jahweh’ for a guide to the reader, and the result, when the MSS are read as written (as they were never meant by Jewish scribes to be read), is ‘Jehovah.’ Thus this modern form has the consonants of one word and the vowels of another. The Hellenistic Jews, in Greek, cubstituted ‘Kyrios’ (Lord) for the sacred name, and it is thus rendered in LXX [Note: Septuagint.] and NT. This explains why in EV [Note: English Version.] ‘the Lord’ is the usual rendering of ‘Jahweh.’ The expression ‘Tetragrammaton’ is used for the four consonants of the sacred name, YHWH, which appears in Greek capital letters as Pipi, owing to the similarity of the Greek capital p to the Hebrew h, and the Greek capital i to the Hebrew y and w [thus, Heb. יהוה = Gr. ׀ח׀ה].

(g) Jah is an apocopated form of Jahweh, and appears in poetry (e.g. Psa 68:4, Exo 15:2) in the word ‘Hallelujah’ and in proper names. For Jah Jahweh see Isa 11:2; Isa 26:4.

(h) Jahweh Tsĕbâôth (‘Sabaoth’ of Rom 9:29 and Jam 5:4), in Ev ‘Lord of hosts’ (wh. see), appears frequently in the prophetical and post-exilic literature (Isa 1:9; Isa 6:3, Psa 84:1 etc.). This name seems originally to have referred to God’s presence with the armies of Israel in the times of the monarchy; as fuller conceptions of God became prevalent, the name received an ampler meaning. Jahweh was known as God, not only of the armies of Israel, but of all the hosts of heaven and of the forces of nature (Cheyne, Aids to Devout Study of Criticism, p. 284).

We notice, lastly, that ‘Jahweh’ and ‘Elohim’ are joined together in Gen 2:4 to Gen 3:22; Gen 9:26, Exo 9:30, and elsewhere. Jahweh is identified with the Creator of the Universe (Ottley, BL p. 195). We have the same conjunction, with ‘Sabaoth’ added (‘Lord God of hosts’), in Amo 5:27. ‘Adonai’ with ‘Sabaoth’ is not uncommon.

3. Pre-Mosaic conceptions of God.—We are now in a position to consider the growth of the revelation of God in successive ages; and special reference may here be made to Kautzsch’s elaborate monograph on the ‘Religion of Israel’ in Hastings’ DB [Note: Dictionary of the Bible.] , Ext. vol. pp. 612–734, for a careful discussion of OT conceptions of God. With regard to those of pre-Mosaic times there is much room for doubt. The descriptions written so many centuries later are necessarily coloured by the ideas of the author’s age, and we have to depend largely on the survival of old customs in historical times—customs which had often acquired a new meaning, or of which the original meaning was forgotten. Certainly pre-Mosaic Israel conceived of God as attached to certain places or pillars or trees or springs, as we see in Gen 12:6; Gen 13:18; Gen 14:7; Gen 35:7, Jos 24:26 etc. It has been conjectured that the stone circle, Gilgal (Jos 4:2-8; Jos 4:20 ff.), was a heathen sanctuary converted to the religion of Jahweh. A. B. Davidson (Hastings’ DB [Note: Dictionary of the Bible.] ii. 201) truly remarks on the difficulty in primitive times of realizing deity apart from a local abode; later on, the Ark relieved the difficulty without representing Jahweh under any form, for His presence was attached to it (but see below, § 4).—Traces of ‘Totemism,’ or belief in the blood relationship of a tribe and a natural object, such as an animal, treated as the protector of the tribe, have been found in the worship of Jahweh under the form of a molten bull (1Ki 12:28; but this was doubtless derived from the Canaanites), and in the avoidance of unclean animals. Traces of ‘Animism,’ or belief in the activity of the spirits of one’s dead relations, and its consequence ‘Ancestor-worship,’ have been found in the mourning customs of Israel, such as cutting the hair, wounding the flesh, wearing sackcloth, funeral feasts, reverence for tombs, and the levirate marriage, and in the name elohim (i.e. supernatural beings) given to Samuel’s spirit and (probably) other spirits seen by the witch of Endor (1Sa 28:13). Kautzsch thinks that these results are not proved, and that the belief in demoniacal powers explains the mourning customs without its being necessary to suppose that Animism had developed into Ancestor-worship.—Polytheism has been traced in the plural ‘Elohim’ (see 2 above), in the teraphim or household gods (Gen 31:30, 1Sa 19:13; 1Sa 19:16 : found in temples, Jdg 17:5; Jdg 18:14; cf. Hos 3:4); and patriarchal names, such as Abraham, Sarah, have been taken for the titles of pre-historic divinities. Undoubtedly Israel was in danger of worshipping foreign gods, but there is no trace of a Hebrew polytheism (Kautzsch). It will be seen that the results are almost entirely negative; and we must remain in doubt as to the patriarchal conception of God. It seems clear, however, that communion of the worshipper with God was considered to be effected by sacrifice.

4. Post-Mosaic conceptions of God.—The age of the Exodus was undoubtedly a great crisis in the theological education of Israel. Moses proclaimed Jahweh as the God of Israel, supreme among gods, alone to be worshipped by the people whom He had made His own, and with whom He had entered into covenant. But the realization of the truth that there is none other God but Jahweh came by slow degrees only; henotheism, which taught that Jahweh alone was to be worshipped by Israel, while the heathen deities were real but inferior gods, gave place only slowly to a true monotheism in the popular religion. The old name Micah (= ‘Who is like Jahweh?’, Jdg 17:1) is one indication of this line of thought. The religion of the Canaanites was a nature-worship; their deities were personified forces of nature, though called ‘Lord’ or ‘Lady’ (Baal, Baalah) of the place where they were venerated (Guthe, EBi [Note: Encyclopædia Biblica.] ii. art. ‘Israel,’ § 6); and when left to themselves the Israelites gravitated towards nature-worship. The great need of the early post-Mosaic age, then, was to develop the idea of personality. The defective idea of individuality is seen, for example, in the putting of Achan’s household to death (Jos 7:24 f.), and in the wholesale slaughter of the Canaanites. (The defect appears much later, in an Oriental nation, in Dan 6:24, and is constantly observed by travellers in the East to this day.) Jahweh, therefore, is proclaimed as a personal God; and for this reason all the older writers freely use anthropomorphisms. They speak of God’s arm, mouth, lips, eyes; He is said to move (Gen 3:8; Gen 11:6; Gen 18:1 f.), to wrestle (Gen 32:24 ff.). Similarly He is said to ‘repent’ of an action (Gen 6:6, Exo 32:14; but see 1Sa 15:29.), to be grieved, angry, jealous, and gracious, to love and to hate; in these ways the intelligence, activity, and power of God are emphasized. As a personal God He enters into covenant with Israel, protecting, ruling, guiding them, giving them victory. The wars and victories of Israel are those of Jahweh (Num 21:14, Jdg 5:23).

The question of images in the early post-Mosaic period is a difficult one. Did Moses tolerate images of Jahweh? On the one hand, it seems certain that the Decalogue in some form or other comes from Moses; the conquest of Canaan is inexplicable unless Israel had some primary laws of moral conduct (Ottley, BL p. 172 f.). But, on the other hand, the Second Commandment need not have formed part of the original Decalogue; and there is a very general opinion that the making of images of Jahweh was thought unobjectionable up to the 8th cent. b.c., though Kautzsch believes that images of wood and stone were preferred to metal ones because of the Canaanitish associations of the latter (Exo 34:17, but see Jdg 17:3); he thinks also that the fact of the Ark being the shrine of Jahweh and representing His presence points to its having contained an image of Jahweh (but see § 3 above), and that the ephod was originally an image of Jahweh (Jdg 8:26 f.), though the word was afterwards used for a gold or silver casing of an image, and so in later times for a sort of waistcoat. In our uncertainty as to the date of the various sources of the Hexateuch it is impossible to come to a definite conclusion about this matter; and Moses, like the later prophets, may have preached a high doctrine which popular opinion did not endorse. To this view Barnes (Hastings’ DB [Note: Dictionary of the Bible.] , art. ‘Israel,’ ii. 509) seems to incline. At least the fact remains that images of Jahweh were actually used for many generations after Moses.

5. The conceptions of the Prophetic age.—This age is marked by a growth, perhaps a very gradual growth, towards a true monotheism. More spiritual conceptions of God are taught; images of Jahweh are denounced; God is unrestricted in space and time (e.g. 1Ki 8:27), and is enthroned in heaven. He is holy (Isa 6:3)—separate from sinners (cf. Heb 7:26), for this seems to be the sense of the Hebrew word; the idea is as old as 1Sa 6:20. He is the ‘Holy One of Israel’ (Isa 1:4 and often). He is Almighty, present everywhere (Jer 23:24), and full of love.—The prophets, though they taught more spiritual ideas about God, still used anthropomorphisms: thus, Isaiah saw Jahweh on His throne (Isa 6:1), though this was only in a vision.—The growth of true monotheistic ideas may be traced in such passages as Deu 4:35; Deu 4:39; Deu 6:4; Deu 10:14, 1Ki 8:60, Isa 37:16, Joe 2:27; it culminates in Deutero-Isaiah (Isa 43:10 ‘Before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me’; Isa 44:6 ‘I am the first and I am the last, and beside me there is no God’; so Isa 45:5). The same idea is expressed by the teaching that Jahweh rules not only His people but all nations, as in the numerous passages in Deutero-Isaiah about the Gentiles, in Jer 10:7, often in Ezekiel (e.g. Jer 35:4; Jer 35:9; Jer 35:15 of Edom), Mal 1:5; Mal 1:11; Mal 1:14, and elsewhere. The earlier prophets had recognized Jahweh as Creator (though Kautzsch thinks that several passages like Amo 4:13 are later glosses); but Deutero-Isaiah emphasizes this attribute more than any of his brethren (Isa 40:12; Isa 40:22; Isa 40:28; Isa 41:4; Isa 42:5; Isa 44:24; Isa 45:12; Isa 45:18; Isa 48:13).

We may here make a short digression to discuss whether the heathen deities, though believed by the later Jews, and afterwards by the Christians, to be no gods, were yet thought to have a real existence, or whether they were considered to be simply non-existent, creatures of the imagination only. In Isa 14:12 (the Babylonian king likened to false divinities?) and Isa 24:21 the heathen gods seem to be identified with the fallen angels (see Whitehouse, in Hastings’ DB [Note: Dictionary of the Bible.] i. 592); so perhaps in Deutero-Isaiah (Isa 46:1 f.). In later times they are often identified with demons. In Eth. Enoch (19:1) Uriel speaks of the evil angels leading men astray into sacrificing to demons as to gods (see Charles’s note; and also xcix. 7). And the idea was common in Christian times; it has been attributed to St. Paul (1Co 10:20; though 1Co 8:5 f. points the other way, whether these verses are the Apostle’s own words or are a quotation from the letter of the Corinthians). Justin Martyr (Apol. i. 9, 64, etc.), Tatian (Add. to the Greeks, 8), and Irenæus (Hær. iii. 6:3), while denying that the heathen deities are really gods, make them to have a real existence and to be demons; Athenagoras (Apol. 18, 28), Clement of Alexandria (Exh. to the Greeks, 2f.), and Tertullian (Apol. 10) make them to be mere men or beasts deified by superstition, or combine both ideas.

6. Post-exilic conceptions of God.—In the period from the Exile to Christ, a certain deterioration in the spiritual conception of God is visible. It is true that there was no longer any danger of idolatry, and that this age was marked by an uncompromising monotheism. Yet there was a tendency greatly to exaggerate God’s transcendence, to make Him self-centred and self-absorbed, and to widen the gulf between Him and the world (Sanday, in Hastings’ DB [Note: Dictionary of the Bible.] ii. 206). This tendency began even at the Exile, and accounts for the discontinuance of anthropomorphic language. In the Priest’s Code (P [Note: Priestly Narrative.] ) this language is avoided as much as possible. And later, when the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] was translated, the alterations made to avoid anthropomorphisms are very significant. Thus in Exo 15:3 LXX [Note: Septuagint.] the name ‘Man of war’ (of Jahweh) disappears; in Exo 19:3 LXX [Note: Septuagint.] Moses went up not ‘to Elohim,’ but ‘to the mount of God’; in Exo 24:10 the words ‘they saw Elohim of Israel’ become ‘they saw the place where the God of Israel stood.’ So in the Targums man is described as being created in the image of the angels, and many other anthropomorphisms are removed.—The same tendency is seen in the almost constant use of ‘Elohim’ rather than of ‘Jahweh’ in the later books of OT. The tendency, only faintly marked in the later canonical books, is much more evident as time went on. Side by side with it is to be noticed the exaltation of the Law, and the inconsistent conception of God as subject to His own Law. In the Talmud He is represented as a great Rabbi, studying the Law, and keeping the Sabbath (Gilbert, in Hastings’ DCG [Note: CG Dictionary of Christ and the Gospels.] i. 582).

Yet there were preparations for the full teaching of the gospel with regard to distinctions in the Godhead. The old narratives of the Theophanies, of the mysterious ‘Angel of the Lord’ who appeared at one time to be God and at another to be distinct from Him, would prepare men’s minds in some degree for the Incarnation, by suggesting a personal unveiling of God (see Liddon, BL ii. i. β); even the common use of the plural name ‘Elohim,’ whatever its original significance (see § 2 above), would necessarily prepare them for the doctrine of distinctions in the Godhead, as would the quasi-personification of ‘the Word’ and ‘Wisdom’, as in Proverbs, Job, Wisdom, Sirach, and in the later Jewish writers, who not only personified but deified them (Scott, in Hastings’ DB [Note: Dictionary of the Bible.] , Ext. vol. p. 308). Above all, the quasi-personification of the ‘Spirit of God’ in the prophetical books (esp. Isa 48:16; Isa 63:10) and in the Psalms (esp. Psa 51:11), and the expectation of a superhuman King Messiah, would tend in the same direction.

7. Christian development of the doctrine of God.—We may first deal with the development in the conception of God’s fatherhood. As contrasted with the OT, the NT emphasizes the universal fatherhood and love of God. The previous ages had scarcely risen above a conception of God as Father of Israel, and in a special sense of Messiah (Psa 2:7); they had thought of God only as ruling the Gentiles and bringing them into subjection. Our Lord taught, on the other hand, that God is Father of all and loving to all; He is kind even ‘toward the unthankful and evil’ (Luk 6:35, cf. Mat 5:45). Jesus therefore used the name ‘Father’ more frequently than any other. Yet He Himself bears to the Father a unique relationship; the Voice at the Baptism and at the Transfiguration would otherwise have no meaning (Mar 1:11; Mar 9:7 and || Mt. Lk.). Jesus never speaks to His disciples of the Father as ‘our Father’; He calls Him absolutely ‘the Father’ (seldom in Synoptics, Mat 11:27; Mat 24:36 [RV [Note: Revised Version.] ] Mat 28:19 [see §8], Mar 13:32, Luk 10:22, passim in Jn.), or ‘my Father’ (very frequently in all the Gospels, also in Rev 2:27; Rev 3:5), or else ‘my Father and your Father’ (Joh 20:17). The use of ‘his Father’ in Mar 8:38 and || Mt. Lk. is similar. This unique relationship is the point of the saying that God sent His only-begotten Son to save the world (Joh 3:16 f., 1Jn 4:9)—a saying which shows also the universal fatherhood of God, for salvation is offered to all men (so Joh 12:32). The passage Mat 11:27 (= Luk 10:22) is important as being ‘among the earliest materials made use of by the Evangelists,’ and as containing ‘the whole of the Christology of the Fourth Gospel’ (Plummer, ICC [Note: CC International Critical Commentary.] , ‘St Luke,’ p. 282; for the latest criticism on it see Sanday, Criticism of the Fourth Gosp. p. 223 f.). It marks the unique relation in which Jesus stands to the Father.—We have, then, in the NT three senses in which God is Father. (a) He is the Father of Jesus Christ. (b) He is the Father of all His creatures (cf. Act 17:28, Jam 1:17 f., Heb 12:9), of Gentiles as well as of Jews; Mar 7:27 implies that, though the Jews were to be fed first, the Gentiles were also to be fed. He is the Father of all the Jews, as well as of the disciples of Jesus; the words ‘One is your Father’ were spoken to the multitudes also (Mat 23:1; Mat 23:9). (c) But in a very special sense He is Father of the disciples, who are taught to pray ‘Our Father’ (Mat 6:9; in the shorter version of Luk 11:2 RV [Note: Revised Version.] , ‘Father’), and who call on Him as Father (1Pe 1:17 RV [Note: Revised Version.] ). For Pauline passages which teach this triple fatherhood see art, Paul the Apostle, iii. 1. The meaning of the doctrine of the universal fatherhood is that God is love (1Jn 4:6), and that He manifests His love by sending His Son into the world to save it (see above).

8. Distinctions in the Godhead.—We should not expect to find the nomenclature of Christian theology in the NT. The writings contained therein are not a manual of theology; and the object of the technical terms invented or adopted by the Church was to explain the doctrine of the Bible in a form intelligible to the Christian learner. They do not mark a development of doctrine in times subsequent to the Gospel age. The use of the words ‘Persons’ and ‘Trinity’ affords an example of this. They were adopted in order to express the teaching of the NT that there are distinctions in the Godhead; that Jesus is no mere man, but that He came down from heaven to take our nature upon Him; that He and the Father are one thing (Joh 10:30, see below), and yet are distinct (Mar 13:32); that the Spirit is God, and yet distinct from the Father and the Son (Rom 8:9, see below). At the same time Christian theology takes care that we should not conceive of the Three Persons as of three individuals. The meaning of the word ‘Trinity’ is, in the language of the Quicunque vult, that ‘the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God; and yet they are not three Gods, but one God.’

The present writer must profoundly dissent from the view that Jesus’ teaching about God showed but little advance on that of the prophets, and that the ‘Trinitarian’ idea as found in the Fourth Gospel and in Mat 28:19 was a development of a later age, say of the very end of the 1st century. Confessedly a great and marvellous development took place. To whom are we to assign it, if not to our Lord? Had a great teacher, or a school of teachers, arisen, who could of themselves produce such an absolute revolution in thought, how is it that contemporary writers and posterity alike put them completely in the background, and gave to Jesus the place of the Great Teacher of the world? This can be accounted for only by the revolution of thought being the work of Jesus Himself. An examination of the literature will lead us to the same conclusion.

(a) We begin with St. Paul, as our earliest authority. The ‘Apostolic benediction’ (2Co 13:14) which, as Dr. Sanday remarks (Hastings’ DB [Note: Dictionary of the Bible.] ii. 213), has no dogmatic object and expounds no new doctrine—indeed expounds no doctrine at all—unequivocally groups together Jesus Christ, God [the Father], and the Holy Ghost as the source of blessing, and in that remarkable order. It is inconceivable that St. Paul would have done this had he looked on Jesus Christ as a mere man, or even as a created angel, and on the Holy Ghost only as an influence of the Father. But how did he arrive at this triple grouping, which is strictly consistent with his doctrine elsewhere? We cannot think that he invented it; and it is only natural to suppose that he founded it upon some words of our Lord.

(b) The command to baptize into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost (Mat 28:19), if spoken by our Lord,—whatever the exact meaning of the words, whether as a formula to be used, or as expressing the result of Christian baptism—would amply account for St. Paul’s benediction in 2Co 13:14. But it has been strenuously denied that these words are authentic, or, if they are authentic, that they are our Lord’s own utterance. We must carefully distinguish these two allegations. First, it is denied that they are part of the First Gospel. It has been maintained by Mr. Conybeare that they are an interpolation of the 2nd cent., and that the original text had: ‘Make disciples of all the nations in my name, teaching them,’ etc. All extant manuscripts and versions have our present text (the Old Syriac is wanting here); but in several passages of Eusebius (c [Note: circa, about.] . a.d. 260–340) which refer to the verse, the words about baptism are not mentioned, and in some of them the words ‘in my name’ are added. The allegation is carefully and impartially examined by Bp. Chase in JThSt [Note: ThSt Journal of Theological Studies.] vi. 483 ff., and is judged by him to be baseless. As a matter of fact, nothing is more common in ancient writers than to omit, in referring to a Scripture passage, any words which are not relevant to their argument. Dean Robinson (JThSt [Note: ThSt Journal of Theological Studies.] vii. 186), who controverts Bp. Chase’s interpretation of the baptismal command, is yet entirely satisfied with his defence of its authenticity. Secondly, it is denied that the words in question were spoken by our Lord; it is said that they belong to that later stage of thought to which the Fourth Gospel is ascribed. As a matter of fact, it is urged, the earliest baptisms were not into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, but in the name of Jesus Christ, or into the name of the Lord Jesus, or into Christ Jesus, or into Christ (Act 2:38; Act 8:16; Act 10:48; Act 19:5, Rom 6:3, Gal 3:27). Now it is not necessary to maintain that in any of these places a formula of baptism is prescribed or mentioned. The reverse is perhaps more probable (see Chase, l.c.). The phrases in Acts need mean only that converts were united to Jesus or that they became Christians (cf. 1Co 10:2); the phrase in Mat 28:19 may mean that disciples were to be united to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost by baptism, without any formula being enjoined; or if we take what seems to be the less probable interpretation (that of Dean Robinson), that ‘in the name’ means ‘by the authority of,’ a similar result holds good. We need not even hold that Mat 28:19 represents our Lord’s ipsissima verba. But that it faithfully represents our Lord’s teaching seems to follow from the use of the benediction in 2Co 13:14 (above), and from the fact that immediately after the Apostolic age the sole form of baptizing that we read of was that of Mat 28:19, as in Didache 7 (the words quoted exactly, though in § 9 Christians are said to have been baptized into the name of the Lord), in Justin Martyr, Apol. i. 61 (he does not quote the actual words, but paraphrases, and at the end of the same chapter says that ‘he who is illuminated is washed in the name of Jesus Christ’), and in Tertullian, adv. Prax. 26 (paraphrase), de Bapt. 13 (exactly), de Prœscr. Hær. 20 (paraphrase). Thus the second generation of Christians must have understood the words to be our Lord’s. But the same doctrine is found also in numerous other passages of the NT, and we may now proceed briefly to compare some of them with Mat 28:19, prefacing the investigation with the remark that the suspected words in that verse occur in the most Jewish of the Gospels, where such teaching is improbable unless it comes from our Lord (so Scott in Hastings’ DB [Note: Dictionary of the Bible.] , Ext. vol. p. 313).

(c) That the Fourth Gospel is full of the doctrine of ‘Father, Son, and Spirit’ is allowed by all (see esp. Joh 14:1-31; Joh 15:1-27; Joh 16:1-33). The Son and the Spirit are both Paracletes, sent by the Father; the Spirit is sent by the Father and also by Jesus; Jesus has all things whatsoever the Father has; the Spirit takes the things of Jesus and declares them unto us. In Joh 10:30 our Lord says: ‘I and the Father are one thing’ (the numeral is neuter), i.e. one essence—the words cannot fall short of this (Westcott, in loc.). But the same doctrine is found in all parts of the NT. Our Lord is the only-begotten Son (see § 7 above), who was pre-existent, and was David’s Lord in heaven before He came to earth (Mat 22:45 : this is the force of the argument). He claims to judge the world and to bestow glory (Mat 25:34, Luk 22:69; cf. 2Co 5:10), to forgive sins and to bestow the power of binding and loosing (Mar 2:5; Mar 2:10, Mat 28:18; Mat 18:18; cf. Joh 20:23); He invites sinners to come to Him (Mat 11:28; cf. Mat 10:37, Luk 14:26); He is the teacher of the world (Mat 11:29); He casts out devils as Son of God, and gives authority to His disciples to cast them out (Mar 3:11 f., Mar 3:15). The claims of Jesus are as tremendous, and (In the great example of humility) at first sight as surprising, in the Synoptics as in Jn. (Liddon, BL v. iv.). Similarly, in the Pauline Epistles the Apostle clearly teaches that Jesus is God (see art. Paul the Apostle, iii. 3, 4). In them God the Father and Jesus Christ are constantly joined together (just as Father, Son, and Spirit are joined in the Apostolic benediction), e.g. in 1Co 1:3; 1Co 8:6. So in 1Pe 1:2 we have the triple conjunction—‘the foreknowledge of God the Father,’ ‘the sanctification of the Spirit,’ ‘the blood of Jesus Christ.’ The same conjunction is found in Jud 1:20 f. ‘Praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life’; cf. also 1Co 12:3-6, Rom 8:14-17 etc.

The Holy Spirit is represented in the NT as a Person, not as a mere Divine influence. The close resemblance between the Lukan and the Johannine accounts of the promise of the Spirit is very noteworthy. St. Luke tells us of ‘the promise of my Father,’ and of the command to tarry in the city until the Apostles were ‘clothed with power from on high’ (Luk 24:49); this is interpreted in Act 1:5 as a baptism with the Holy Ghost, and one of the chief themes of Acts is the bestowal of the Holy Ghost to give life to the Church (Act 2:4; Act 2:33; Act 8:15 ff; Act 19:2 ff. etc.). This is closely parallel to the promise of the Paraclete in Joh 14:1-31; Joh 15:1-27; Joh 16:1-33. Both the First and the Third Evangelists ascribe the conception of Jesus to the action of the Holy Ghost (Mat 1:18; Mat 1:20, Luk 1:35, where ‘the Most High’ is the Father, cf. Luk 6:35 f.). At the baptism of Jesus, the Father and the Spirit are both manifested, the appearance of the dove being an indication that the Spirit is distinct from the Father. The Spirit can be sinned against (Mar 3:29 and || Mt. Lk.); through Him Jesus is filled with Divine grace for the ministry (Luk 4:1; Luk 4:14; Luk 4:18), and casts out devils (Mat 12:28; cf. Luk 11:20 ‘the finger of God’). The Spirit inspired David (Mar 12:36). So in St. Paul’s Epistles He intercedes, is grieved, is given to us, gives life (see art. Paul the Apostle, iii. 6). And the distinctions in the Godhead are emphasized by His being called the ‘Spirit of God’ and the ‘Spirit of Christ’ in the same verse (Rom 8:9). That He is the Spirit of Jesus appears also from Act 16:7 RV [Note: Revised Version.] , 2Co 3:17, Gal 4:6, Php 1:19, 1Pe 1:11.

This very brief epitome must here suffice. It is perhaps enough to show that the revelation which Jesus Christ made caused an immeasurable enlargement of the world’s conception of God. Our Lord teaches that God is One, and at the same time that He is no mere Monad, but Triune. Cf. art. Trinity.

A. J. Maclean.

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God - Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

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