4. The RSV translates Ps. 45:6, "Your divine throne endures forever and ever," but this is a highly unlikely translation because it requires understanding the Hebrew noun for "throne" in construct state, something extremely unusual when a noun has a pronominal suffix, as this one does. The RSV translation would only be adopted because of a theological assumption (that an Old Testament psalmist could not predict a fully divine messianic king), but not on the grounds of language or grammar. The KJV, NIV, and NASB all take the verse in its plain, straightforward sense, as do the ancient translations and Heb. 1:8. Derek Kidner, Psalms 1-72 TOTC (London: Inter-Varsity Press, 1973), p. 172, says this verse is "an example of Old Testament language bursting its banks, to demand a more than human fulfillment," and "this paradox is consistent with the Incarnation, but mystifying in any other context."
Though some ancient kings, such as the Egyptian pharaohs, were sometimes addressed as "gods," this was part of the falsehood connected with pagan idolatry, and it should not be confused with Ps. 45, which is part of Scripture and therefore true.
The suggested translation of Heb. 1:8 in the RSV margin, "God is your throne forever and ever," while possible grammatically, is completely inconsistent with the thinking of both Old and New Testaments: the mighty God who created everything and rules supreme over the universe would never be merely a "throne" for someone else. The thought itself is dishonoring to God, and it should certainly not be considered as a possibly appropriate translation.
"Sit at my right hand" except someone else who is also fully God? From a New Testament perspective, we can paraphrase this verse: "God the Father said to God the Son, "Sit at my right hand."' But even without the New Testament teaching on the Trinity, it seems clear that David was aware of a plurality of persons in one God. Jesus, of course, understood this, but when he asked the Pharisees for an explanation of this passage, "no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did any one dare to ask him any more questions" (Matt. 22:46). Unless they are willing to admit a plurality of persons in one God, Jewish interpreters of Scripture to this day will have no more satisfactory explanation of Psalm 110:1 (or of Gen. 1:26, or of the other passages just discussed) than they did in Jesus day.
Isaiah 63:10 says that God's people "rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit" (NIV), apparently suggesting both that the Holy Spirit is distinct from God himself (it is "his Holy Spirit"), and that this Holy Spirit can be "grieved," thus suggesting emotional capabilities characteristic of a distinct person. (Isa. 61:1 also distinguishes "The Spirit of the Lord GOD" from "the Lord," even though no personal qualities are attributed to the Spirit of the Lord in that verse.)
Similar evidence is found in Malachi, when the Lord says, "The Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?" (Mal. 3:1-2). Here again the one speaking ("the Lord of hosts") distinguishes himself from "the Lord whom you seek," suggesting two separate persons, both of whom can be called "Lord."
In Hosea 1:7, the Lord is speaking, and says of the house of Judah, "I will deliver them by the Lord their God," once again suggesting that more than one person can be called "Lord" (Heb. HIH', H3378) and "God" (D'H^N, H466).
And in Isaiah 48:16, the speaker (apparently the servant of the Lord) says, "And now the Lord God has sent me and his Spirit."5 Here the Spirit of the Lord, like the servant of the Lord, has been "sent" by the Lord GOD on a particular mission. The parallel between the two objects of sending ("me" and "his Spirit") would be consistent with seeing them both as distinct persons: it seems to mean more than simply "the Lord has sent me and his power."6 In fact, from a full New Testament perspective (which recognizes Jesus the Messiah to be the true servant of the Lord predicted in Isaiah's prophecies), Isaiah 48:16 has trinitarian implications: "And now the Lord God has sent me and his Spirit," if spoken by Jesus the Son of God, refers to all three persons of the Trinity.
Furthermore, several Old Testament passages about "the angel of the Lord"
suggest a plurality of persons in God. The word translated "angel" (Heb. ,
H4855) means simply "messenger." If this angel of the Lord is a "messenger" of the Lord, he is then distinct from the Lord himself. Yet at some points the angel of the Lord is called "God" or "the Lord" (see Gen. 16:13; Ex. 3:2-6; 23:20-22 [note "my
5 5. This RSV translation of Isa. 48:16 accurately reproduces both the literal sense of the Hebrew words and the word order in the Hebrew text.
6 6. The NIV translation, "with his Spirit," is not required by the Hebrew text and tends to obscure the parallel thoughts of the Lord sending "me" and "his Spirit." The word with in the NIV is the translators' interpretation of the Hebrew conjunction "1,
H2256, which most commonly means simply "and." The common Hebrew word for
name is in him" in v. 21]; Num. 22:35 with 38; Judg. 2:1-2; 6:11 with 14). At other points in the Old Testament "the angel of the Lord" simply refers to a created angel, but at least at these texts the special angel (or "messenger") of the Lord seems to be a distinct person who is fully divine.
One of the most disputed Old Testament texts that could show distinct personality for more than one person is Proverbs 8:22-31. Although the earlier part of the chapter could be understood as merely a personification of "wisdom" for literary effect, showing wisdom calling to the simple and inviting them to learn, vv. 22-31, one could argue, say things about "wisdom" that seem to go far beyond mere personification. Speaking of the time when God created the earth, "wisdom" says, "Then I was the craftsman at his side. I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence, rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in mankind" (Prov. 8:30-31 NIV). To work as a "craftsman" at God's side in the creation suggests in itself the idea of distinct personhood, and the following phrases might seem even more convincing, for only real persons can be "filled with delight day after day" and can rejoice in the world and delight in mankind.7
But if we decide that "wisdom" here really refers to the Son of God before he became man, there is a difficulty. Verses 22-25 (RSV) seem to speak of the creation of this person who is called "wisdom": The Lord created me at the beginning of his work, The first of his acts of old. Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth. When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding with water. Before the mountains had been shaped, before the hills, I was brought forth.
Does this not indicate that this "wisdom" was created?
In fact, it does not. The Hebrew word that commonly means "create"
H1343) is not used in verse 22; rather the word is HI}?, H7865, which occurs eighty-four times in the Old Testament and almost always means "to get, acquire." The NASB is most clear here: "The Lord possessed me at the beginning of his way" (similarly KJV). (Note this sense of the word in Gen. 39:1; Ex. 21:2; Prov. 4:5, 7; 23:23; Eccl. 2:7; Isa. 1:3 ["owner"].) This is a legitimate sense and, if wisdom is understood as a real person, would mean only that God the Father began to direct and make use of the powerful creative work of God the Son at the time creation began8:
7 7. In response to these arguments, one could argue that there are similarly detailed personifications of wisdom in Prov. 8:1-12 and 9:1-6, and of foolishness in Prov. 9:13-18, and no interpreter understands these to be actual persons. Therefore, Prov. 8:22-31 does not represent an actual person either. This argument seems convincing to me, but I have included the following paragraph because Prov. 8:22-31 has a long history of interpreters who think it refers to God the Son.
RSV rsv—Revised Standard Version
NASB nasb—New American Standard Bible
KJV kjv—King James Version (Authorized Version)
8 8. The confusion surrounding the translation of the verse seems to have been caused by the unusual translation of the Septuagint, which used Kti^w (G3231, "create") rather than the usual translation Ktao^at (G3227, "acquire, take possession of' ) to the Father summoned the Son to work with him in the activity of creation. The expression "brought forth" in verses 24 and 25 is a different term but could carry a similar meaning: the Father began to direct and make use of the powerful creative work of the Son in the creation of the universe.
2. More Complete Revelation of the Trinity in the New Testament. When the New Testament opens, we enter into the history of the coming of the Son of God to earth. It is to be expected that this great event would be accompanied by more explicit teaching about the trinitarian nature of God, and that is in fact what we find. Before looking at this in detail, we can simply list several passages where all three persons of the Trinity are named together.
When Jesus was baptized, "the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and alighting on him; and lo, a voice from heaven, saying, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased"' (Matt. 3:16-17). Here at one moment we have three members of the Trinity performing three distinct activities. God the Father is speaking from heaven; God the Son is being baptized and is then spoken to from heaven by God the Father; and God the Holy Spirit is descending from heaven to rest upon and empower Jesus for his ministry.
At the end of Jesus' earthly ministry, he tells the disciples that they should go "and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Matt. 28:19). The very names "Father" and "Son," drawn as they are from the family, the most familiar of human institutions, indicate very strongly the distinct personhood of both the Father and the Son. When "the Holy Spirit" is put in the same expression and on the same level as the other two persons, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the Holy Spirit is also viewed as a person and of equal standing with the Father and the Son.
When we realize that the New Testament authors generally use the name "God" (Gk. 9£oq, G2536) to refer to God the Father and the name "Lord" (Gk. Kupioq, G3261) to refer to God the Son, then it is clear that there is another trinitarian expression in 1 Corinthians 12:4-6: "Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in every one."
Similarly, the last verse of 2 Corinthians is trinitarian in its expression: "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all" (2 Cor. 13:14). We see the three persons mentioned separately in Ephesians 4:4-6 as well: "There is one body and one Spirit just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all."
All three persons of the Trinity are mentioned together in the opening sentence of 1 Peter: "According to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, that you may obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with his blood" (1 Peter 1:2 NASB). And in Jude 20-21, we read: "But you, beloved, build yourselves up on your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit; keep yourselves in the love of God; wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life."
translate the Hebrew term at this verse. Hl^, H7865, occurs eighty-four times in the Hebrew Old Testament and is translated more than seventy times by Ktdo^at but only three times by Kti^w (Gen. 14:19; Prov. 8:22; Jer. 39(32):15), all of which are questionable translations. The other Greek translations of the Old Testament by Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotian all have Ktdo^at at Prov. 8:22.
However, the KJV translation of 1 John 5:7 should not be used in this connection. It reads, "For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one."
The problem with this translation is that it is based on a very small number of unreliable Greek manuscripts, the earliest of which comes from the fourteenth century a.d. No modern translation (except NKJV) includes this KJV reading, but all omit it, as do the vast majority of Greek manuscripts from all major text traditions, including several very reliable manuscripts from the fourth and fifth century a.d., and also including quotations by church fathers such as Irenaeus (d. ca. a.d. 202), Clement of Alexandria (d. ca. a.d. 212), Tertullian (died after a.d. 220), and the great defender of the Trinity, Athanasius (d. a.d. 373).
Was this article helpful?