As in any usual composition the personality of the author is taken for granted, so a knowledge of God is secured by induction of all passing intimations about the writer to be found in the Sacred Text which He wrote.
Many efforts have been made to define God, but perhaps none more satisfactory than that of the Westminster Larger Catechism, which reads: "God is a Spirit, in and of himself infinite in being, glory, blessedness, and perfection; all-sufficient, eternal, unchangeable, incomprehensible, every where present, almighty, knowing all things, most wise, most holy, most just, most merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth" (Question 7).
As good an analysis of this whole theme as might be had anywhere would be secured if each one of the descriptive terms in the Catechism statement were treated by itself.
The doctrine of God in the Old Testament is set forth in three primary names which He bears. These are:
1. El, meaning strength, and its two cognates—Elah, meaning a covenant-keeping God, and Elohim, a plural name that is used constantly as if a singular grammatical form. It seems evident that the doctrine of the Trinity is foreshadowed in this plural name. The one passage—Deuteronomy 6:4—is most revealing and might be translated: "Jehovah [a singular form] our Elohim [a plural] is one Jehovah." The word for one here may signify an integration of constituent parts as for instance when it is said, "And the evening and the morning ... one day," "And they [two] shall be one flesh" (Gen. 1:5; 2:24).
Many modern scholars assert that the plural form of Elohim does not intimate the Trinity. Oehler, for one, asserts that it is a case of the plural of majesty—some kind of attempt to multiply the force of the title. However, he gives no sufficient reason, nor do others succeed in proving that a trinitarian thought is not present. It all seems, then, to be a form of unbelief. The Old Testament certainly does not lack for emphasis upon the majesty of God. (The triune mode of existence has had its treatment earlier in Volume I.)
2. Jehovah. The meaning of this term is 'Self-Existent One.' As an exalted title it was so sacred to the Jew that use of it was avoided by the people for many generations. The moral implications of God seen in this name are dwelt upon by T. Rees in his article "God" written for the International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia:
The most distinctive characteristic of Jehovah, which finally rendered Him and His religion absolutely unique, was the moral factor. In saying that Jehovah was a moral God, it is meant that He acted by free choice, in conformity with ends which He set to Himself, and which He also imposed upon His worshippers as their law of conduct.
The most essential condition of a moral nature is found in His vivid personality, which at every stage of His self-revelation shines forth with an intensity that might be called aggressive. Divine personality and spirituality are never expressly asserted or defined in the Old Testament; but nowhere in the history of religion are they more clearly asserted. The modes of their expression are, however, qualified by anthropomorphisms, by limitations, moral and physical Jehovah's jealousy (Ex. 20:5; Deut. 5:9; 6:15), His wrath and anger (Ex. 32:10-12; Deut. 7:4) and His inviolable holiness (Ex. 19:21-22; 1 Sam. 6:19; 2 Sam. 6:7) appear sometimes to be irrational and immoral; but they are the assertion of His individual nature, of
His self-consciousness as He distinguishes Himself from all else, in the moral language of the time, and are the conditions of His having any moral nature whatsoever. Likewise, He dwells in a place and moves from it (Judg. 5:5); men may see Him in visible form (Ex. 24:10; Num. 12:8); He is always represented as having organs like those of the human body, arms, hands, feet, mouth, eyes and ears. By such sensuous and figurative language alone was it possible for a personal God to make Himself known to men.—II, 1256
3. Adonai, meaning 'Master'; used of God and of men.
The New Testament presents God as Father of all who believe and as one to be known through His personal interrelations. The name of God in the New Testament is again a threefold revelation: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Not just one of these but all are required to present the one God.
Though God exists in a threefold mode of being, He is represented in the New Testament as one God, and so the Christian is as much under obligation to defend the doctrine of one God as the Unitarian, the Jew, or the Mohammedan.
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