Israel’s Essential Knowledge of God
All of this study refers to those who were faithful to the Law of Moses up to the time of the death of Jesus and beyond. It is very clearly revealed in the rest of the OT scriptures itself that much (even most) of Israel was apostate in various periods before the time of Christ. This included kings, priests, and much of the populace itself. This correlates with the vast apostasy of much of Christendom during the past 1800 years.
Certainly any worshiper must know his God. This is essential in any religion, but emphatically so in the religion of the God of the Bible. So exactly who is this God?
Israel and Judaism has always taught that God is one person only, Jehovah, the Father. Christendom began teaching in the 4th century A.D. that God is three persons who are all equally the one God.
God does not change (Malachi 3:6). He is the same now as he has always been. He revealed himself to many individuals as recorded in the Bible. So how did the first Bible writer, Moses, reveal God to His Chosen People, Israel? There can be no argument that the first 5 books of the Bible (the writings of Moses) revealed God (through God’s own direction and commandment) as a single person with the personal name of Jehovah.
Then, later, the Book of Joshua was written. Search through it as you may you will not find anything that clearly shows that God is anything other than a single person with the personal name of Jehovah!
These 6 books were the word of God for God’s chosen people for hundreds of years. In fact, if we carefully examine all the Old Testament, we find the same thing: There was never any indication that God was anything but Jehovah, the Father in heaven, the Creator of all.
(“That all the peoples of the earth may know that Jehovah...is God; there is none else.” 1 Ki. 8:60, ASV. “You alone, Jehovah, are the God above all gods in supreme charge of all the earth.” Ps. 83:18, LB. “I am Jehovah and there is no one else. I alone am God.” Is. 45:6, LB.)
For thousands of years this has been the great distinction of the chosen people of the God of the Bible. They have always known that their God is one person only. Not only has the divine word itself (given to them alone) made this clear, but all the other writings, teachings, comments, etc. by their scholars, teachers, etc. throughout the ages have always confirmed this.
How can this be if the trinity doctrine that God is three persons is true? A people must know their God. The God of the Bible was very careful to inform his people of the things that would lead to eternal life and eternal destruction. He made his name known to them alone. God does not change. So how is it that for thousands of years God’s chosen people have always known that God is one person, Jehovah, the Father alone?
How is it that knowledge of God’s “plurality” was never noticed until hundreds of years after Jesus’ death (and many years after the Apostles’ deaths, of course) when Christendom was adopting the trinity doctrine? How come the “evidence” for the trinity in the OT are things that most respected OT Hebrew scholars view with scorn (even most trinitarian Hebrew scholars of Christendom refute their significance)? For example, the insistence by some trinitarians that the OT word for God, Elohim, is plural to indicate the plurality of persons within the “Godhead.” This is not merely ludicrous to respected Hebrew scholars, but an example of downright disgraceful “scholarship”! (See the ELOHIM study.)
The God of Judaism
“Judaism, rejecting alike the Trinity and the Incarnation, believes in a single universal God....” - Britannica, p. 166, Vol. 13, 14th ed.
“Jehovah was recognized by all the Jews as the Highest Master of their Fate, the only True God.” - The Story of Mankind, p. 29, Hendrik Willem Van Loon, 1940, Pocket Book Edition. Cf. Jeremiah 10:10 and Jn 17:1, 3, KJV, ASV, NASB, RSV; Ps. 83:18.
Jehovah was the Father only [never Son, Firstborn, Only-begotten, etc.] to the Jews. - Ex. 4:22; Deut. 32:6; Is. 63:16; 64:8, etc., ASV. Famed first century Jewish Historian Josephus tells us,
“[Moses] represented God as unbegotten [unlike the Son of God, 1 Jn 4:9, KJV, ASV, NKJV, NASB], and immutable, through all eternity.” - Josephus, p. 630, Kriegel Publications, 1978.
And Philo, the famed early-first century Jewish philosopher,
“represents Jehovah as a single uncompounded Being .... the Father and Creator of the universe” - p. xx, The Works of Philo, Yonge, Hendrickson Publishers, 1993.
“God was worshipped as a single personal, universal benevolent force, a loving Father-God whose care was for the well-being of his children, the human race.” - p. 5, The Portable World Bible, The Viking Press.
It is absolutely unbelievable that Jesus and his Apostles taught the trinity or even suggested that Jesus was God Almighty! There is no certain or undisputed scriptural authority for such a belief in New or Old Testament. The writings of the Christians of the first two centuries did not teach such a thing but consistently taught that the Father, alone, was the Almighty God - (See pp. 109-111, A Short History of the Early Church, Boer, 1976, Eerdmans Publ.).
The belief that Jesus is God and that God is three equal persons had to be forced upon most of Christendom starting at 325 A. D. at the Council of Nicaea - see HIST study. But the Jews never changed their knowledge of God. No one but the Father (Jehovah alone) has ever been God for them. The introduction of any other knowledge of God is treated as the worst of blasphemies. And so it was that Jewish writers didn’t even begin attacking Christendom for such a terrible blasphemy until after Christendom began to adopt a God of three equal persons during the 4th century A.D.
First Christians Were Within Judaism
It is certain that the Chosen People with the unique One-Person God would not have tolerated for one second any man in their midst who claimed to be God. Nor would they have allowed anyone to live among them who taught that their one God was “three persons”!
And yet Jesus taught among them as one of them for three and a half years. His Apostles taught among them for another 50-70 years!
"The believers in Jesus as the Messiah first preached to fellow Jews, so that the first Christians were pious Jews within the synagogue.” - The Story of Israel, p. 28, Levin, Putnam Publ.
“Henceforth, the group [first century Christians] had to reassure itself of its new identity through weekly celebrations in remembrance of Jesus’ resurrection, even though its worship in the synagogues and the temple was already distinctive.” – p. 85, Christian Beginnings, Westminster/John Knox Press, 1993.
“Except for the belief in Jesus as the Messiah, there was little that was radically contrary to Judaism in the teachings and practices of the Christ sectarians [a sect of Judaism].” - p. 87, The Jews: Biography of a People, Teller, Bantam Books, 1966.
“Consequently, the Early Church was primarily Jewish and existed within Judaism. The development of Christianity within Judaism and its progress to Antioch is described by Luke in the first twelve chapters of Acts.” - p. 59, Christianity Through the Centuries, Cairns (trinitarian), Zondervan, 1977.
“In its earliest phase, the Christian movement had its center in Jerusalem, where it took shape not as a new religion but as a sect or grouping within the parent body of Judaism. .... That they saw themselves simply as Jews, as a renewed Israel, is made clear by the fact that they were faithful both in attendance at the temple and in obedience to the Law; and this being the case, they lived in peace with the religious authorities in Jerusalem.” - p. 23, A History of the Christian Church, 4th ed., Williston Walker (trinitarian), 1985, Macmillan Publ.
“In this period [1st century A. D.] churches were still regarded as synagogues, whose members .... professed monotheism [belief in the one God] in the same terms as did the Jews. They used the Hebrew Scriptures [‘Old Testament’], and they took messianism, the eschatology (even angelology), and the ethics of Judaism for granted...” - pp. 121-122, The Rise of Christianity, W. H. C. Frend (trinitarian), Fortress Press, 1985.
“The roots of the Christian Church reach back deeply into the history of Israel. ‘Salvation,’ said Jesus, ‘is from the Jews’ (John 4:22). .... The earliest church was wholly Jewish, her Savior was a Jew, and the entire New Testament was probably written by Jews.” ....
“The baptisms recorded in Acts were all done in the name of Jesus only. It is this confession [only] that distinguished Christians from Jews. Belief in God was assumed [the God of the Jews, YHWH, the Father alone] and was not therefore a matter of special confession. As the gospel spread to the Gentiles, the name of God, especially as Creator, was added.” - pp. 3, 75, A Short History of the Early Church, Boer (trinitarian missionary and scholar), 1976, Eerdmans Publ.
“Jesus of Nazareth was well versed in the religion of his fathers and dedicated ... to worship of ‘the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob,’ Jehovah, who was now seen as the one God, omnipotent ruler of the universe and loving father of mankind.... Racially and religiously Christ was born, lived, and died a loyal Jew, He sought merely to ... widen his people’s understanding of the merciful, loving, Father-God whose Lordship was attested by the Jewish spiritual leaders who preceded him.” - The Portable World Bible, The Viking Press, pp. 228, 230.
If there had been any new knowledge of God being understood by this new Christian sect of Judaism, there would have been nothing else ever talked about by the Jews whenever they discussed the Christians. Even the claim that Jesus was the Messiah would have been completely overshadowed! Instead, the Christians remained a sect of Judaism for many years. The falling out between Christianity and Judaism occurred after Bar Kochba terribly persecuted them for not recognizing him as the Messiah and joining in his revolution against Rome. BUT THERE WAS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING ABOUT A DIFFERENT KNOWLEDGE OF GOD! This simply could not be if there was even a rumor that Christians believed anyone but the Father alone (Jehovah) was God! This greatest of all blasphemies in the eyes of the Jews would not have taken second place to anything else!
“It is at this point [after Nicaea, 4th century A. D.] that the gulf between the Church and the Synagogue opens before us in all its depth and significance .... The teaching of the divinity of Jesus Christ is an unpardonable offence in the eyes of Judaism.” - The Jewish People and Jesus Christ, Jakob Jocz.
“Only gradually did the Christian understanding of Christ and the Spirit evolve to the point where it was incompatible with any Jewish understanding of monotheism, and this process was only finalized in the fourth century C.E.” - p. 104, Aspects of Monotheism, “Jewish Monotheism and Christian Theology,” by John J. Collins (Catholic professor of Hebrew Bible at Chicago Divinity School), 1997, Biblical Archaeology Society.
If the trinity or the divinity of Jesus had been taught or believed by the first Christians, the schism between the Jews (who considered such a teaching “an unpardonable offense”) and Christians would have been immediate, irrevocable, and incredibly intense. But that is not what caused problems between the first Christians and the Jews.
The Jewish belief that the parting of the ways came not at Stephen’s martyrdom but after Bar Kochba’s war against Hadrian [132-135 A. D.] is now gaining ground. Previously there had been no event sufficiently striking to sever the ties. Christians frequented the synagogues: they were still a Jewish sect. But Bar Kochba was hailed by Aqiba as the Messiah. This the Christians could not condone and they stood aside. .... The Jews regarded the Christians as renegades: the Christians would not fight for Aqiba’s Messiah. The die had fallen and there was no recalling the past. - Encyclopedia Britannica, p. 167, Vol. 13, 14th ed. [See the 'Bar Kochba and the Christians' study.]
- - - - - - - - - - - -
It was the generation following the destruction of the Temple which brought about a final rupture between Jews and Christians .... In the third rebellion against Rome [132-135 A.D.], when the Christians were unable to accept bar Kochba as their Messiah, they declared that their kingdom was of the other world, and withdrew themselves completely from Judaism and everything Jewish. The alienation process was completed. Judaism and Christianity became strangers to each other .... A wall of misunderstanding and hate was erected by the narrow zealotries of the two faiths. [pp. 152, 153, Jews, God and History, Max I. Dimont, A Signet Book, 1962.]
Now examine this essential cornerstone teaching of the Jews since the time of Moses: the Shema of Deut. 6:4, 5 as rendered in the trinitarian Living Bible.
“O Israel, listen: Jehovah is our God, Jehovah alone. You must love him with all your heart, soul, and might.”
Yes, Jehovah, the Father alone (Jn 8:54), was God. God’s chosen people were commanded to love and worship only him.
“I am Jehovah and there is no one else. I alone am God.” - Is. 45:6, Living Bible.
Jesus and his Apostles believed and taught the very same truth (of course they would not contradict the Holy Scriptures): Jesus was asked,
“‘Of all the commandments, which is the most important?’ Jesus replied, ‘The one that says, “Hear, O Israel! The Lord [Jehovah] our God is the one and only God. And you must love him with all your heart and soul and mind and strength.”’” - Mark 12:28-30, Living Bible.
After Jesus’ death the first writings available to Christians (certainly long before John’s Gospel was written), in addition to the Holy Scriptures (Old Testament) were the Synoptic Gospels: Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Search them as carefully as you can. You will not find any new knowledge concerning the identity of God Almighty, the only true God. He is still the Father in heaven - -- alone. Can we really believe that thousands of God’s spirit-anointed Christian followers of the first century lived and died without being taught that God is “really” a three-persons-in-one God? In fact, the entire New Testament (including those writings that came much later than the very first Gospels - including the Gospel of John) still do not teach a trinity nor even that Jesus is the only true, almighty God. How can this most essential, cornerstone teaching of Christendom not be in the Holy Bible?
Some might say that just as the identity of the Christ was not revealed until the first century A. D. so the identity of God was not fully revealed until 325 A. D. (or 381 A. D. when the Holy Spirit was added to the creed). At that time a small minority of the Bishops present (but powerfully encouraged and supported by the pagan Roman Emperor with the backing of all his power and authority) decreed at the Council of Nicaea that Jesus was fully God with the Father. - see the HIST study.
Ah, but the knowledge of who the Messiah was simply wasn’t required for salvation until Jesus was on earth. At that time it was revealed with abundant clarity, emphasis, and repetition. (See Luke 2:11; 4:41; Mark 14:61, 62; Matt. 16:16; John 1:41, 42; 4:25, 26; 20:31 for a few of the many straightforward examples.) The knowledge of who God is, however, has always been essential to God’s people and has been known clearly and emphatically from the time of Moses at least (as shown in Deut. 6:4 among many others).
The God who wants no one to be destroyed has clearly and emphatically revealed who he is from the very beginning. Yes, the eternal God who does not change (Malachi 3:6) has been clearly known to his people for thousands of years as Jehovah, the Father! - -
“JEHOVAH .... This is my name forever.” - Ex. 3:15, NEB, ASV, MLB, NIV, RSV. “Jehovah, ... (This is my eternal name, to be used throughout all generations.)” - LB.
It should also be apparent to most people that the identification of the promised Messiah is in no way contradictory to the knowledge previously given to the Jews from the time of Moses up to the time of Jesus!
However, the “revelation” (finally “recognized” long after all scripture had been completed) of three persons being God is a direct contradiction of the knowledge revealed to and understood by the people of God for thousands of years.
If the trinity knowledge is true, God actually misled his people in an essential, life-saving area of knowledge for generation after generation for no reason whatsoever! How incredible that He would have chastised them so grievously for even relatively minor paganisms borrowed from their neighbors and completely ignored such a perversion of the basic, essential knowledge of God! Surely (if the trinity were true) His prophets would have been correcting the single Person “error” for thousands of years!
If Jesus or any of his followers were to have taught a three-in-one God or even that Jesus was God incarnate, the Jews would have driven them out immediately. They certainly would not have been tolerated as a sect of Judaism for so many years as they were. And, if, by some incredible miracle, they had been allowed to live among and teach other Jews, there would have been nothing that would have been talked about more than the incredible, new, most blasphemous conception of God that these people were trying to introduce.
The writings of the Jews of these times would have spoken of very little else in connection with this new sect. And the New Testament would have spent the major portion of its teaching on this “trinity” concept, especially when attempting to communicate with fellow Jews. But there is no such record among the Jews, among the Gentile historians and philosophers, nor in the record of the New Testament, nor in the writings of the Christians of the first two centuries! - See the CREEDS study.
This makes the statement about the easy “acceptance” of the new trinitarian “revelation” by the very first Christians found in the highly-praised, highly trinitarian New Bible Dictionary absolutely ludicrous! If not so tragic, it would be laughable:
“What is amazing, however, is that this confession of God as One in Three took place without struggle and without controversy [even without comment] by a people indoctrinated for centuries in the faith of the one God, and that in entering the Christian church [the early first century Jews] were not conscious of any break with their ancient faith.” - p. 1222, second ed., 1984 printing, Tyndale House Publishers (trinitarian).
Yes, this would be more than just “amazing,” if these people really did understand and accept a new Three-in-One God! The complete lack of any struggle, the complete lack of Jewish attacks on this most blasphemous concept imaginable to them, the complete lack of any teaching or defense of this concept by those first Christians, and the complete lack of any contemporary comment on this incredible new teaching all combine to make the trinitarian idea that this concept was known and believed by the first Christians absolutely impossible!
No, the God of the Bible remained, as should be expected, completely unchanged from the time he revealed himself to Moses at the burning bush: “Jehovah, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (Ex. 3:15, ASV, NEB, LB, MLB). This is exactly the same God revealed by Jesus and his Apostles.
“Jesus replied [to the Jews], ‘Your trouble is that you don’t know the Scriptures, and don’t know the power of God.... have you never read in the book of Exodus about Moses and the burning bush? God said to Moses, “I am the God of Abraham, and I am the God of Isaac, and I am the God of Jacob.”’” - Mark 12:24, 26, LB.
Immediately after that statement by Jesus one of the scribes came up to Jesus and asked, “Of all the commandments which is the most important?” And, as we saw above, Jesus answered by quoting that all-important declaration of the identity of the true God that all Jews have held sacred for over 3000 years, Deut. 6:4:
“The one that says, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord [Jehovah] our God is the one and only God. And you must love him with all your heart and soul and mind and strength.’” - Mark 12:28, 29, Living Bible.
This Jehovah is the Father, the only true God (Jn 17:1, 3 - “Father,.... This is eternal life: to know thee who alone art truly God.” - NEB). Jehovah is the God of Jesus (Micah 5:4; 1 Cor. 11:3; Eph. 1:17; Rev. 3:12). Jesus is not Jehovah (Ps. 110:1; Acts 2:34-36; Micah 5:4; Is. 53:10; Ps. 2:2; Acts 4:24-29 - see footnote for Micah 5:4 in The NIV Study Bible). Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, but not God Himself.
The footnote for Mark 14:61 in the trinitarian NIVSB tells us that “Son of God” as applied to Jesus here
“would seem not to refer to deity but to royal Messiahship, since in popular Jewish belief [then and now] the Messiah was to be a man, not God.”
Therefore, God’s chosen people (even those many who became apostate) have never known their only true God to be a “multiple person God.” Since the faithful followers of God's word have always worshiped only a single person named Jehovah, their Father in heaven, it puts the burden of proof squarely on the shoulders of trinitarians. Where is the overwhelming, crystal clear proof that somehow all of Israel (from Abraham to Isaac to Jacob to Moses to David to Isaiah to Malachi to Jesus) was always mortally wrong in their knowledge of the very God who revealed himself to them? [See 'Trinity Challenges' study]. The “proof” offered by trinitarians is always specious, vague, and/or ambiguous (see the DAVID and REDEF studies).
- “... the Lord Jesus shall be revealed...in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God....” - 2 Thess. 1:7, 8.
Note: Although Watchtower Society (WTS) research and scholarship is usually at least the equal of (and often superior to) that of other sources, I have tried in most studies to rely most heavily on other sources in Christendom itself (preferably trinitarian) or my own independent research and conclusions to provide evidence disproving the trinitarian ‘proof’ being examined in this paper. The reason is, of course, that this paper is meant to provide evidence needed by non-Witnesses, and many of them will not accept anything written by the WTS. They truly believe it is false, even dishonest. Therefore some of the information in this paper, all of which helps disprove specific trinitarian “proofs,” may be in disagreement with current WTS teachings in some specifics. Jehovah’s Witnesses should research the most recent WTS literature on the subject or scripture in question before using this information with others. – RDB.
1. Nowhere in the scriptures do the Jews ever accuse Christians of worshiping or teaching a false God. Even when the Jews deliberately made up false accusations in an attempt to have them killed, Jesus, Paul, and other Christians were still never accused of teaching a different God from that of the rest of the Jews! (Examine the Gospels and Acts.)
Examples of Christ and His followers Teaching in Synagogues (NASB)
Matt. 13:54 -
Mark 1:21 -
And they went into Capernaum; and immediately on the Sabbath He entered the synagogue and began to teach.
Mark 6:2 -
Luke 4:16 -
Lu 6:6 -
Joh 6:59 -
Ac 13:14 - 44 -
After the reading of the Law and the Prophets the synagogue officials sent to them, saying, "Brethren, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, say it." ….
Ac 14:1 -
Acts 17:1 -Now when they had traveled through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. 2 And according to Paul's custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, "This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ."
Ac 18:4 -
Ac 19:8 -
Teaching in the Temple
Mt 26:55 -
Mr 12:35 -
Lu 21:37, 38 -
And all the people would get up early in the morning to come to Him in the temple to listen to Him.
Ac 5:42 -
And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.
2. This was obviously a severe problem for the first Christians as they taught among their fellow Jews in Israel. Acts 4 and 5 shows that the sole problem for the Jewish religious authorities was not any teaching about God but, instead, the teaching about Jesus as the Christ or Messiah! (esp. Acts 4:8-10, 18; 5:40-41; 9:17-23; 18:5-6, 28)
The final straw was added during the Jewish rebellion against Rome (135 A. D.) when the Christians refused to support the rebellion or acknowledge bar Kochba as the Messiah - p. 594, The History of Christianity (trinitarian), Lion Publishing, 1990; and pp. 152, 153, Jews, God, and History, Max I. Dimont, A Signet Book, 1962; and p. 167, Encyclopedia Britannica, Vol. 18, 14th ed.
3. “Cochba [bar Kochba] ... tortured and killed the Christians who refused to aid him against the Roman army.” - p. 42, Greek Apologists of the Second Century, Robert M. Grant, The Westminster Press, 1988.
“Another Christian apologist, Justin [Martyr], tells how ... Bar Kochba, the leader of the insurrection, ordered Christians alone to be executed if they would not deny and curse Jesus the Messiah.” - Ibid.
“After the war the Jerusalem church, once Jewish, consisted only of Gentiles.” - Ibid.
[See the 'Bar Kochba' study]
4. Some of these earliest Christian writers even wrote specifically to the Jews in an attempt to show the major differences between Christians and Jews and, of course, defend the Christian faith. None of them mention a difference in the knowledge of God!
Two of the earliest Christian writings addressed specifically to the Jews are Tertullian’s An Answer to the Jews written about 198 A.D. and Justin Martyr’s Dialogue with Trypho, a Jew written about 160 A.D.
Tertullian’s An Answer to the Jews devotes three-fourths of its pages to examining the question of who is the Messiah. It also discusses the following points: the Law, Circumcision, the Sabbath, and Sacrifices. It does not discuss any different knowledge of God for Jews and Christians!
Justin Martyr’s Dialogue with Trypho, a Jew also spends much time discussing who the Christ is and other differences between Christians and Jews. But, again, there is no major discussion of who the One True, Almighty God is! If Christians had really understood God as three different persons at this time, Justin (and Tertullian) would have spent most of his pages defending the Christian knowledge of a three-in-one God against that of the Jews’ one-person God. The fact that this doesn’t happen shows that such an understanding simply did not exist among the earliest Christians. They worshiped the very same God as the Jews: the Father alone!