Is God one "divine substance" or Being?
The word "one" in this Scripture in no way supports the definition of God as one "divine Substance" or one divine Being. A careful study of the Hebrew text reveals that the word "one" in Genesis 3:22 cannot be interpreted as only one in number. The Hebrew word that is used in this verse is specifically marked to signify one of a related number. Oxlee quotes the Hebrew authority Aben Ezra:
"As often as the numeral, one, is pointed with a Segol under the Aleph, it is accompanied with an accent, and its signification [meaning] is absolute [only one]; but when it is pointed with a pathach [as it is in Genesis 3:22], it is in regimen [linked to a related number]; and thus we read it in the passage, As one of the tribes of Israel [Genesis 49:16]. It ought not, therefore, according to the rules of grammar, to be here expounded [in Genesis 3:22], as though it were one absolute [only one in number]" (The Christian Doctrines of the Trinity and Incarnation, p. 102).
The Hebrew word translated "one" in Genesis 3:22 is identical to the word used in Genesis 49:16, where we read, "Dan shall judge his people, as one of the tribes of Israel." Here is a clear Scriptural example to verify that the true meaning of "one" in Genesis 3:22 is one of a number of like entities.
The Hebrew text leaves no room for interpreting "one of Us" in Genesis 3:22 as only one divine Being or "Substance." These words spoken by God cannot properly be understood unless we are willing to accept a plurality of divine Beings. Oxlee quotes Aben Ezra further to confirm that the true meaning of the pronoun "Us" in Genesis 3:22 is
"of us, in the plural number; just as it occurs in the expression, A man of us [Numbers 31:49]" (Ibid., p. 102).
Genesis 3:22 is not the only Scripture where God speaks in the plural. The plural pronoun "Us" is found in a number of Old Testament passages where God is speaking. In Genesis 1:26 we read,
"And God said, 'Let US make man in OUR image, after OUR likeness . . . "
And in Genesis 11:7 we find these words of God:
"Go to, let US go down, and there confound their language . . . "
The book of Isaiah shows the same usage:
"Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: 'Whom shall I send, and who will go for US?' " (Isaiah 6:8.)
Some claim that the plural pronouns used in these verses are not referring to more than one divine Being but to the various modes or operations of a single divine Being. This claim is not only without Scriptural support but is contrary to the rules of language. As Oxlee states,
"...in no language with which we are acquainted, is the human mind ever expressed in the plural number on that account; and, therefore, affords no reason why the noun Elohim, should be so used, on account of the multiplicity and variety of its operations" (The Christian Doctrines of the Trinity and Incarnation, p. 94).
Christians and Jews alike have argued that "Us" does not necessarily indicate more than one divine Being because it is customary for potentates to speak of themselves in the plural. This argument is totally without Scriptural foundation:
"Indeed, there is not the smallest authority for it in the compositions of the Old Testament; which, being penned with that simplicity peculiar to the early ages of the world, introduce all princely characters expressing themselves in their own proper number [singular], and with the strictest grammatical propriety: nor does it distinguish, in that respect, between the most potent of sovereigns and the very lowest of the human species" (Ibid., p. 96).
Realizing that this argument can not be supported by Scripture, some have adopted another theory to explain the use of "Us" in reference to God. This Jewish fable, which has become popular in some Christian churches, claims that God was speaking to an angelic council. Although many commentators support this view, it has no Scriptural basis. As Oxlee states,
"That angels should act as coadvisers and coadjutors in the administration of the affairs of the world, is not only repugnant to the very meaning of the term angel, itself; which denotes a being deputed on a mission from God; but is wholly unsanctioned by any declaration to that effect, either in Moses or in the prophets" (Ibid., p. 97).
Not only does Oxlee show the emptiness of this Jewish fable, but he also shows how illogical it is when he tells us that:
"the sovereign creator of the worlds, by being supposed to confer with the angels, on every weighty and important occasion, is absolutely debased and insulted; and suffers a higher indignity from this erroneous interpretation of the Jewish church, than man could possibly do, by being supposed to confer with quadrupeds and reptiles, on the design and propriety of human actions" (Ibid., p. 98).
To interpret the plural pronoun "Us" as referring not to two Supreme Beings but to one Supreme Being and a council of angels makes no sense. If we believe that the Creator was conferring with angels instead of another Supreme Being when He used the word "Us," then we would have to believe that angels had a part in the creation of man. We would have to believe that man was made in the image of angels and not God alone when God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness . . . " (Genesis 1:26). Such an interpretation of Genesis 1:26 would be contrary to all that the Scriptures reveal concerning the creation of man. The following verse plainly declares that God created man in is Own image (verse 27).
That the God Who created man was a plurality of divine Beings is revealed not only in the first chapter of Genesis but in other Old Testament Scriptures as well. In the Hebrew text, the word 'asah (gah-sah'), or Maker, is found in the plural form in a number of references to God alone. Notice the correct translation of Isaiah 54:5 according to the Hebrew text:
"For thy Makers are thine husbands; the Lord of hosts [Jehovah Who became the Father] is His name; and Thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel [Jehovah Who became the Son]; The God of the whole earth shall He be called."
We find a similar statement in Psalm 149:2, which is correctly translated, "Let Israel rejoice in his Makers . . . "
Noting these Scriptures, Oxlee states,
"The term, Maker, is both equivocal and common [in the Old Testament]; but what seems most worthy of admiration is, that in the very texts, in which the deity is exclusively the subject, it is evidently used in the plural number" (The Christian Doctrines of the Trinity and Incarnation, p. 73).
These Old Testament references to the Creator as a plurality of Beings are in complete accord with the teachings of the New Testament. The apostle John declared of Jesus Christ,
"All things were made by Him; and without Him was not any thing made that was made" (John 1:3).
The apostle Paul declared that he, Paul, was sent
"to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, Who created all things by Jesus Christ" (Ephesians 3:9).
In the book of Revelation we find Jesus' own testimony to His work as Creator:
"These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginner [Greek arche, the originator or cause; incorrectly translated "beginning" in most versions] of the creation of God" (Revelation 3:14).
The Scriptures reveal that it was Jesus Christ, as the Word of God, Who said, "Let there be light." It was He who formed man from the dust of the ground, and Who created "all things." He was with God from the beginning, as the apostle John declares:
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (John 1:1).
The Hebrew / Greek Key Study Bible states that the Greek verb en, translated "was" in this verse, is more accurately translated "had been," and offers this paraphrase of the verse to reflect the actual meaning of the Greek text:
"Before there was any beginning, the Word had been..." (Zodhiates, p. 1315).
The apostle John is clearly revealing in these words that Jesus Christ had existed before the creation of the world. John uses very specific language to convey the eternal existence of Jesus Christ. John emphasizes His eternal existence as God by repeating in verse 2, "The same was [had been] in the beginning with God."
When John declared that the Word was "with God," John used the Greek word pros, meaning "to or toward," and indicating motion toward something or someone (Bullinger, The Companion Bible, Appendix 104, XV, 3). Zodhiates translates "with God" as "toward the God" (The Hebrew / Greek Key Study Bible, p. 1315).
John's use of the Greek preposition pros clearly demonstrates that the Word was not in God but coexisted as a separate Being. John twice declares that the Word was "with God" (Greek pros Theos) to emphasize this truth.
John's inspired words refute all arguments against the eternal existence of Jesus Christ and verify the plurality of God as revealed in the Old Testament. Thus the New Testament confirms the simple truth that is preserved in the most ancient records of Scripture in the little two-letter word "Us": that two Supreme Beings have eternally coexisted as God.
Those who claim that Jesus Christ did not eternally exist as God (Greek Theos) and with God (Greek Theos) are blinding their eyes to the plain statements of Scripture. They are following the error of the Jewish church in refusing to acknowledge what God Himself reveals in His Word.
The Jewish church has never accepted the truth of the divinity of Jesus Christ, and adamantly refuses to accept the New Testament as inspired Scripture. Moreover, its officials have attempted to remove from the Old Testament every reference to Christ's eternal pre-existence as God. Under the guise of reverence for the name of God, the Jews of antiquity who were entrusted with the keeping of the Hebrew text made illicit alterations to the Old Testament. They changed the original names of God in key references which reveal the plurality of God. Before this alteration, these Scriptures made obvious reference to the existence of TWO Jehovahs Who were both God.
Because the record of these changes has been preserved, we can know the truth that God has revealed about Himself in the Old Testament. A study of the original Hebrew names of God as used in the Old Testament bears witness to the existence of two Supreme Everliving Beings Who were both known as Jehovah. This undeniable Scriptural evidence of the plurality of God will be presented in a sequel to this paper.