The Trinity as Singular and Plural in the Holy Bible
God’s Triune state testified even in the Old Testament
The Holy Trinity is revealed in the Holy Bible in many ways. And while God is one, in many places He reveals Himself as consisting of more than one Person: by the three Persons that constitute the Holy Trinity. Let's examine here some of the verses that reveal Him thus.
The Persons who created man
Let's start from the beginning, from Genesis, 1:26, 27:
“…and God said: let US make mankind according to OUR image and according to OUR likeness; and let them govern the fish of the sea and the fowl of the sky and the cattle and all of the earth and all the creeping things that creep upon the earth. 27 and God created mankind, according to the image of God created He him, male and female created He them…”
We notice here that God (singular) first says: “let US make” (Plural), according to OUR image (plural). But the text doesn't then say: “They created” in the plural; It says: “He created”, in the Singular. Consequently, THEY who created man are 'God' - and He consists of more than one Person.
Some Arianists claim that this is a Plural of Respect, as in the term “Elohim” which means “Gods” (plural), and is found in the original Hebrew, in place of the word: “God”. And indeed, “Elohim”, is in the Plural out of respect for God, and is generally used that way in the Holy Bible. However it is used, not only for the true God 'Yahweh', but also for other, false gods, such as Dagon, as in Judges 16:23:
“23 Now the rulers of the Philistines assembled to offer a great sacrifice to Dagon their god and to celebrate, saying, “Our god has delivered Samson, our enemy, into our hands.”.
But here, the words: “let US make”, are not used with the plural of respect; if it were the case, they would also be in the Plural in the pursuant verbs of that verse, and not appear as “let ME make”.. So, would the one verse use the plural of respect, and the verse immediately after be in the singular of… disrespect?
Certain other Arianists, (including the Watchtower Witnesses), who, albeit having perceived this detail, assert that here God was addressing His Son, Christ, in His pre-incarnate state, when He was... an angel! This is because they do not acknowledge that Christ is the Son – Who is of the same nature as the Father. Thus, they assert that God made all of Creation with the help of his Son, hence was addressing the Son in these verses.
However there are two facts here, which overturn this “explanation”.
The first is that according to the Bible, God had no assistant during the creation of the world. He created it ALONE. And we can see this in the Holy Bible, in Psalm 72:18:
“Blessed is the Lord, the God of Israel, Who makes wondrous things alone.”
The same is said in Isaiah 44:24:
“I, the Lord, Who made all things, stretched out the heavens alone and stabilized the earth.”
God had no assistant whatsoever, and “THEY” who fashioned mankind are the three Persons of the one and only Triune God.
The second fact that overturns this heretical view, is that in the verse of Genesis that we are examining, it is written:
“…and God said: let US make mankind according to OUR image…” (Gen.1:26)
This means mankind was to be made according to 'THEIR' image.
And when man was in due course created, (Gen.1:27), it says:
27 and God created man, according to the image of God created He him …”
That is, according to 'HIS' image (not THEIRS)
If God was indeed addressing Christ, and Christ was only a created angel and not God the Son by nature, consubstantial with the Father, could man have been created –SIMLTANEOUSLY- “according to the image” of God…and of an angel?
Not unless that “angel” was UNCREATED – that is, of the same essence as God - could man have been created “according to the image” both of God and the “angel”. And this is indeed the case, because the Bible indicates that Christ, the Son, is indeed according to the image of God - in His human nature.
But we might elaborate on this a little (although we have explained it more extensively in another article).
It doesn't say: “is the image”. It says: “is according to the image”. What does “according to the image” mean, compared to “is the image”? It means the image according to the image of God, and not God’s image directly; well, who is the “image of God”? The Son, Jesus Christ of course – “Who is the (visible) image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15):
“ 15He (=Christ) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation…”
Man, then, was made “according to the image of God” (where “God” includes the Divine, consubstantial nature of Christ – the Son), or, “the image of Christ” (according to His human nature). That Jesus Christ was not yet incarnate as a human is not a problem. The beyond-Time God already knows the Future well (being also the Creator of Time), and as such, knows the Son’s human nature well before He was born as a human.
Given that Christians acknowledge that the Son Jesus Christ has two natures – divine and human - they can very easily comprehend the reference to the words “according to the image of”, as pertaining to Christ.
The Arianists, however, by acknowledging only one nature in Christ, are completely unable to explain how it is possible for man to be simultaneously “according to the image” of both God and Christ (a creation - according to them), as Christ is the (visible) “image” of God!!! Utter confusion and contradiction in all their doctrines, if one were to examine them a little more in depth.
After pointing out the absurdity of the Arianists’ excuses, let us continue with another passage from Genesis in which it addresses God, once in the Singular, and once in the Plural:
Genesis 11:6-8: “ 6 And the Lord said, “behold, everyone is of one genus and of one language, and yet this is what they began to do; so now, nothing that they intend to do will be deprived from them; 7 Come, let US descend and confuse their language there, so that each of them will not understand the other’s voice. 8 So the Lord scattered them from there over the face of all the earth, and they ceased building the city and the tower.”.
This of course is the familiar event with the confusion of tongues at the Tower of Babel. Note here that, while the Lord (‘Yahweh’ in Hebrew) is addressing more than one Person (‘Let US descend…’, it is obvious that it was the two other Persons of the Holy Trinity). The plan of confusing the tongues was solely the Lord's (So the Lord scattered them…).
A few examples from the New Testament
But let's take a better look now - and BY NAME – at the use of Singular and Plural for the Persons of the Godhead in the New Testament, where God’s revelation is more specific than in the Old Testament:
1 Thessalonians 3:11:
“11 May He - our God and Father and our Lord Jesus Christ - direct our way to you“.
While Paul clearly distinguishes between the Persons of the Godhead by name (the Father and Jesus Christ, using the connective “and”) - he prays that He (Singular, for both Persons!) will 'direct' our way! Clearly, both Persons are THE ONE GOD!
2 Thessalonians 2:16,17:
“16 May He - our Lord Jesus Christ and our God and Father - who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace, 17 comfort your hearts and support you in every benevolent word and work.”
Here too, while Paul clearly refers to two Persons of the Holy Trinity - Jesus and the Father - he uses the singular in the words “He” and “has”, obviously because in Paul's thought, the Father and the Son are the One God. Otherwise, he would have written: “May They - our Lord Jesus Christ and our God and Father - who have loved us…”
“15 Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying “the worldly realm of our Lord and of His Christ has come, and He shall reign forever and ever!”
It does not say here: “THEY shall reign – given that two Persons are clearly stated – but instead, He shall reign…”!
“…. but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him….”
It says: “shall reign with HIM”. It does not say: “shall reign with THEM!'
“3 And every accursed thing shall be no more; but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. 4 They shall see His countenance, and His name shall be on their foreheads.”
Here likewise, the throne is of two Persons: of God and of the Lamb, (the Lamb = Christ in His human nature). And while there are two Persons on the throne, the text continues to speak of them both, not in the Plural, but in the Singular.
In John’s thought – as in all Christians - the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit together comprise the one, Triadic God in three Hypostases.
But for this chapter of Revelation, we have already dedicated another study with a special analysis verse by verse, where we project how the Father and the Son are 'The Alpha and the Omega’, ‘The First and the Last' - the One God of Christians, whose Persons are testified by the Holy Bible, from Genesis through to Revelation.
Translation by A.N.
For the present study, details were borrowed from the book by theologian N.Sotiropoulos “Anti-Chiliast Manual”