What Does the Bible Say About God and Jesus?
IF PEOPLE were to read the Bible from cover to cover without any preconceived idea of a Trinity, would they arrive at such a concept on their own? Not at all.
What comes through very clearly to an impartial reader is that God alone is the Almighty, the Creator, separate and distinct from anyone else, and that Jesus, even in his prehuman existence, is also separate and distinct, a created being, subordinate to God.
God Is One, Not Three
THE Bible teaching that God is one is called monotheism. And L. L. Paine, professor of ecclesiastical history, indicates that monotheism in its purest form does not allow for a Trinity: “The Old Testament is strictly monotheistic. God is a single personal being. The idea that a trinity is to be found there . . . is utterly without foundation.”
Was there any change from monotheism after Jesus came to the earth? Paine answers: “On this point there is no break between the Old Testament and the New. The monotheistic tradition is continued. Jesus was a Jew, trained by Jewish parents in the Old Testament scriptures. His teaching was Jewish to the core; a new gospel indeed, but not a new theology. . . . And he accepted as his own belief the great text of Jewish monotheism: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one God.’”
Those words are found at Deuteronomy 6:4. The Catholic New Jerusalem Bible (NJB) here reads: “Listen, Israel: Yahweh our God is the one, the only Yahweh.”* In the grammar of that verse, the word “one” has no plural modifiers to suggest that it means anything but one individual.
Thousands of times throughout the Bible, God is spoken of as one person. When he speaks, it is as one undivided individual. The Bible could not be any clearer on this. As God states: “I am Jehovah. That is my name; and to no one else shall I give my own glory.” (Isaiah 42:8) “I am Yahweh your God . . . You shall have no gods except me.” (Italics ours.)—Exodus 20:2, 3, JB.
Why would all the God-inspired Bible writers speak of God as one person if he were actually three persons? What purpose would that serve, except to mislead people? Surely, if God were composed of three persons, he would have had his Bible writers make it abundantly clear so that there could be no doubt about it. At least the writers of the Christian Greek Scriptures who had personal contact with God’s own Son would have done so. But they did not.
Instead, what the Bible writers did make abundantly clear is that God is one Person—a unique, unpartitioned Being who has no equal: “I am Jehovah, and there is no one else. With the exception of me there is no God.” (Isaiah 45:5) “You, whose name is Jehovah, you alone are the Most High over all the earth.”—Psalm 83:18.
Not a Plural God
JESUS called God “the only true God.” (John 17:3) Never did he refer to God as a deity of plural persons. That is why nowhere in the Bible is anyone but Jehovah called Almighty. Otherwise, it voids the meaning of the word “almighty.” Neither Jesus nor the holy spirit is ever called that, for Jehovah alone is supreme. At Genesis 17:1 he declares: “I am God Almighty.” And Exodus 18:11 says: “Jehovah is greater than all the other gods.”
In the Hebrew Scriptures, the word ʼelohʹah (god) has two plural forms, namely, ʼelo·himʹ (gods) and ʼelo·hehʹ (gods of). These plural forms generally refer to Jehovah, in which case they are translated in the singular as “God.” Do these plural forms indicate a Trinity? No, they do not. In A Dictionary of the Bible, William Smith says: “The fanciful idea that [ʼelo·himʹ] referred to the trinity of persons in the Godhead hardly finds now a supporter among scholars. It is either what grammarians call the plural of majesty, or it denotes the fullness of divine strength, the sum of the powers displayed by God.”
The American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures says of ʼelo·himʹ: “It is almost invariably construed with a singular verbal predicate, and takes a singular adjectival attribute.” To illustrate this, the title ʼelo·himʹ appears 35 times by itself in the account of creation, and every time the verb describing what God said and did is singular. (Genesis 1:1–2:4) Thus, that publication concludes: “[ʼElo·himʹ] must rather be explained as an intensive plural, denoting greatness and majesty.”
ʼElo·himʹ means, not “persons,” but “gods.” So those who argue that this word implies a Trinity make themselves polytheists, worshipers of more than one God. Why? Because it would mean that there were three gods in the Trinity. But nearly all Trinity supporters reject the view that the Trinity is made up of three separate gods.
The Bible also uses the words ʼelo·himʹ and ʼelo·hehʹ when referring to a number of false idol gods. (Exodus 12:12; 20:23) But at other times it may refer to just a single false god, as when the Philistines referred to “Dagon their god [ʼelo·hehʹ].” (Judges 16:23, 24) Baal is called “a god [ʼelo·himʹ].” (1 Kings 18:27) In addition, the term is used for humans. (Psalm 82:1, 6) Moses was told that he was to serve as “God” [ʼelo·himʹ] to Aaron and to Pharaoh.—Exodus 4:16; 7:1.
Obviously, using the titles ʼelo·himʹ and ʼelo·hehʹ for false gods, and even humans, did not imply that each was a plurality of gods; neither does applying ʼelo·himʹ or ʼelo·hehʹ to Jehovah mean that he is more than one person, especially when we consider the testimony of the rest of the Bible on this subject.
Jesus a Separate Creation
WHILE on earth, Jesus was a human, although a perfect one because it was God who transferred the life-force of Jesus to the womb of Mary. (Matthew 1:18-25) But that is not how he began. He himself declared that he had “descended from heaven.” (John 3:13) So it was only natural that he would later say to his followers: “What if you should see the Son of man [Jesus] ascend to where he was before?”—John 6:62, NJB.
Thus, Jesus had an existence in heaven before coming to the earth. But was it as one of the persons in an almighty, eternal triune Godhead? No, for the Bible plainly states that in his prehuman existence, Jesus was a created spirit being, just as angels were spirit beings created by God. Neither the angels nor Jesus had existed before their creation.
Jesus, in his prehuman existence, was “the first-born of all creation.” (Colossians 1:15, NJB) He was “the beginning of God’s creation.” (Revelation 3:14, RS, Catholic edition). “Beginning” [Greek, ar·kheʹ] cannot rightly be interpreted to mean that Jesus was the ‘beginner’ of God’s creation. In his Bible writings, John uses various forms of the Greek word ar·kheʹ more than 20 times, and these always have the common meaning of “beginning.” Yes, Jesus was created by God as the beginning of God’s invisible creations.
Notice how closely those references to the origin of Jesus correlate with expressions uttered by the figurative “Wisdom” in the Bible book of Proverbs: “Yahweh created me, first-fruits of his fashioning, before the oldest of his works. Before the mountains were settled, before the hills, I came to birth; before he had made the earth, the countryside, and the first elements of the world.” (Proverbs 8:12, 22, 25, 26, NJB) While the term “Wisdom” is used to personify the one whom God created, most scholars agree that it is actually a figure of speech for Jesus as a spirit creature prior to his human existence.
As “Wisdom” in his prehuman existence, Jesus goes on to say that he was “by his [God’s] side, a master craftsman.” (Proverbs 8:30, JB) In harmony with this role as master craftsman, Colossians 1:16 says of Jesus that “through him God created everything in heaven and on earth.”—Today’s English Version (TEV).
So it was by means of this master worker, his junior partner, as it were, that Almighty God created all other things. The Bible summarizes the matter this way: “For us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things . . . and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things.” (Italics ours.)—1 Corinthians 8:6, RS, Catholic edition.
It no doubt was to this master craftsman that God said: “Let us make man in our image.” (Genesis 1:26) Some have claimed that the “us” and “our” in this expression indicate a Trinity. But if you were to say, ‘Let us make something for ourselves,’ no one would normally understand this to imply that several persons are combined as one inside of you. You simply mean that two or more individuals will work together on something. So, too, when God used “us” and “our,” he was simply addressing another individual, his first spirit creation, the master craftsman, the prehuman Jesus.
Could God Be Tempted?
AT MATTHEW 4:1, Jesus is spoken of as being “tempted by the Devil.” After showing Jesus “all the kingdoms of the world and their glory,” Satan said: “All these things I will give you if you fall down and do an act of worship to me.” (Matthew 4:8, 9) Satan was trying to cause Jesus to be disloyal to God.
But what test of loyalty would that be if Jesus were God? Could God rebel against himself? No, but angels and humans could rebel against God and did. The temptation of Jesus would make sense only if he was, not God, but a separate individual who had his own free will, one who could have been disloyal had he chosen to be, such as an angel or a human.
On the other hand, it is unimaginable that God could sin and be disloyal to himself. “Perfect is his activity . . . A God of faithfulness, . . . righteous and upright is he.” (Deuteronomy 32:4) So if Jesus had been God, he could not have been tempted.—James 1:13.
Not being God, Jesus could have been disloyal. But he remained faithful, saying: “Go away, Satan! For it is written, ‘It is Jehovah your God you must worship, and it is to him alone you must render sacred service.’”—Matthew 4:10.
How Much Was the Ransom?
ONE of the main reasons why Jesus came to earth also has a direct bearing on the Trinity. The Bible states: “There is one God, and one mediator between God and men, a man, Christ Jesus, who gave himself a corresponding ransom for all.”—1 Timothy 2:5, 6.
Jesus, no more and no less than a perfect human, became a ransom that compensated exactly for what Adam lost—the right to perfect human life on earth. So Jesus could rightly be called “the last Adam” by the apostle Paul, who said in the same context: “Just as in Adam all are dying, so also in the Christ all will be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:22, 45) The perfect human life of Jesus was the “corresponding ransom” required by divine justice—no more, no less. A basic principle even of human justice is that the price paid should fit the wrong committed.
If Jesus, however, were part of a Godhead, the ransom price would have been infinitely higher than what God’s own Law required. (Exodus 21:23-25; Leviticus 24:19-21) It was only a perfect human, Adam, who sinned in Eden, not God. So the ransom, to be truly in line with God’s justice, had to be strictly an equivalent—a perfect human, “the last Adam.” Thus, when God sent Jesus to earth as the ransom, he made Jesus to be what would satisfy justice, not an incarnation, not a god-man, but a perfect man, “lower than angels.” (Hebrews 2:9; compare Psalm 8:5, 6.) How could any part of an almighty Godhead—Father, Son, or holy spirit—ever be lower than angels?
How the “Only-Begotten Son”?
THE Bible calls Jesus the “only-begotten Son” of God. (John 1:14; 3:16, 18; 1 John 4:9) Trinitarians say that since God is eternal, so the Son of God is eternal. But how can a person be a son and at the same time be as old as his father?
Trinitarians claim that in the case of Jesus, “only-begotten” is not the same as the dictionary definition of “begetting,” which is “to procreate as the father.” (Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary) They say that in Jesus’ case it means “the sense of unoriginated relationship,” a sort of only son relationship without the begetting. (Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words) Does that sound logical to you? Can a man father a son without begetting him?
Furthermore, why does the Bible use the very same Greek word for “only-begotten” (as Vine admits without any explanation) to describe the relationship of Isaac to Abraham? Hebrews 11:17 speaks of Isaac as Abraham’s “only-begotten son.” There can be no question that in Isaac’s case, he was only-begotten in the normal sense, not equal in time or position to his father.
The basic Greek word for “only-begotten” used for Jesus and Isaac is mo·no·ge·nesʹ, from moʹnos, meaning “only,” and giʹno·mai, a root word meaning “to generate,” “to become (come into being),” states Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance. Hence, mo·no·ge·nesʹ is defined as: “Only born, only begotten, i.e. an only child.”—A Greek and English Lexicon of the New Testament, by E. Robinson.
The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, edited by Gerhard Kittel, says: “[Mo·no·ge·nesʹ] means ‘of sole descent,’ i.e., without brothers or sisters.” This book also states that at John 1:18; 3:16, 18; and 1 John 4:9, “the relation of Jesus is not just compared to that of an only child to its father. It is the relation of the only-begotten to the Father.”
So Jesus, the only-begotten Son, had a beginning to his life. And Almighty God can rightly be called his Begetter, or Father, in the same sense that an earthly father, like Abraham, begets a son. (Hebrews 11:17) Hence, when the Bible speaks of God as the “Father” of Jesus, it means what it says—that they are two separate individuals. God is the senior. Jesus is the junior—in time, position, power, and knowledge.
When one considers that Jesus was not the only spirit son of God created in heaven, it becomes evident why the term “only-begotten Son” was used in his case. Countless other created spirit beings, angels, are also called “sons of God,” in the same sense that Adam was, because their life-force originated with Jehovah God, the Fountain, or Source, of life. (Job 38:7; Psalm 36:9; Luke 3:38) But these were all created through the “only-begotten Son,” who was the only one directly begotten by God.—Colossians 1:15-17.
Was Jesus Considered to Be God?
WHILE Jesus is often called the Son of God in the Bible, nobody in the first century ever thought of him as being God the Son. Even the demons, who “believe there is one God,” knew from their experience in the spirit realm that Jesus was not God. So, correctly, they addressed Jesus as the separate “Son of God.” (James 2:19; Matthew 8:29) And when Jesus died, the pagan Roman soldiers standing by knew enough to say that what they had heard from his followers must be right, not that Jesus was God, but that “certainly this was God’s Son.”—Matthew 27:54.
Hence, the phrase “Son of God” refers to Jesus as a separate created being, not as part of a Trinity. As the Son of God, he could not be God himself, for John 1:18 says: “No one has ever seen God.”—RS, Catholic edition.
The disciples viewed Jesus as the “one mediator between God and men,” not as God himself. (1 Timothy 2:5) Since by definition a mediator is someone separate from those who need mediation, it would be a contradiction for Jesus to be one entity with either of the parties he is trying to reconcile. That would be a pretending to be something he is not.
The Bible is clear and consistent about the relationship of God to Jesus. Jehovah God alone is Almighty. He created the prehuman Jesus directly. Thus, Jesus had a beginning and could never be coequal with God in power or eternity.
God’s name is rendered “Yahweh” in some translations, “Jehovah” in others.
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Having been created by God, Jesus is in a secondary position in time, power, and knowledge
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Jesus said that he had a prehuman existence, having been created by God as the beginning of God’s invisible creations