In a study of the Godhead, there must first be a clear definition of the terms being used. This becomes especially important in any kind of discussion, but particularly when the biblical view of the deity is concerned. A classic example of this is found in the understanding, or I should say the different understandings of the term, MONOTHEISM. Monotheism is defined as the doctrine, or belief, that there is but one God. Of all world religions only three profess themselves monotheistic: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, respectively. For the purpose of our study we will exclude Islam and consider only the first and the second, namely, Judaism and Christianity.
Since the Christian faith sprang from the cradle of the Hebrew faith, it would only seem logical that Christianity would maintain the monotheistic teachings of her spiritual Hebrew forefathers. While we hold this to be the fact in true Christianity, we must recognize a mutated form of monotheism that has appeared and spread through the ranks of Christendom to the point that it is today considered by the majority as being orthodox. This corrupted form of monotheism, unlike the true monotheism of the Hebrew prophets, declares God to be a compound One. By "compound" is meant: composed of, or resulting from union of separate elements, ingredients, of parts. This teaching, called the Trinity, confesses to believe in One God made up of three separate and distinct elements; namely, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. These different elements are freely termed by the Trinitarian as Persons. The Trinity laity would even say, Beings. Here the term ONE has been redefined to no longer refer to the cardinal numeral, but instead to a compound one.
A Compound One?
Trinitarianism was a late comer to the Christian landscape (3rd to 5th century). Reaching final codification in the Athanasian Creed (between 5th and 7th century). This late arrival is a compromise between Christianity's original orthodoxy of Modalism and the Arian challenger in the third and fourth centuries. Finding a place between the radical monotheism of Modalism and the subordinationism of Origin, Justin Martyr, and Arius, is Trinitarianism which confesses a semi-monotheism of three God-persons who are co-equal, and co-eternal. The oneness here is a compound one. A one God comprised of three units/elements/components - called persons. Each person being fully God. Each person is totally independent from the other two, yet completely united in purpose and will. Therefore, when this view speaks of its monotheism, it is not speaking of one sentient Being; but, instead it means to say that God is a compound one - not a solitary one.
Thus, any discussion on the subject of the Godhead, in order to be fruitful, must include an investigation into the legality of the definition one uses for the word: 'ONE.' Thus, the CRUX of the mater: Do the Scriptures which teach that God is One mean to say God is One in a SOLITARY sense? Or, do the scriptures which teach that God is One intend to teach God is One in a COMPOUND sense?
The First Commandment: The Hebrew concept of God is clearly seen in the Shema Israel, “HEAR, O ISRAEL: THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD.” (Deuteronomy 6:4). The ONE, here referred to, is a Solitary, not a Compound, One. We do see this beyond question in Deuteronomy 32:39. Let us look closely at this scripture.
Deuteronomy 32:39 See now that I, even I, am he, and there is not God with me, I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal; neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand.Here the spokesman is Yahweh (Deuteronomy 32:19), Who alone is the Most High (Psalms 83:18). Who speaks of Himself as a single Being.
- “I” (Hebrew: aniy) first person singular personal pronoun.
- “He” (Hebrew: huw) third person masculine singular personal pronoun.
- “With me” (Hebrew immade) it is the preposition ‘immad’ suffixed with the first person singular personal pronoun. The personal pronouns in an abbreviated form are affixed to nouns, prepositions, etc, to express the genitive and objective cases. THEREFORE, THE OBJECT OF THE PREPOSITION IS A SINGLE PERSON.
- “My hand” (Hebrew: meyade) it is the noun “yad” suffixed with the first person singular possessive pronoun. THE HAND WAS THE POSSESSION OF ONE PERSON.
- All the verbs of this verse are the first person singular form. In Hebrew the verb must agree with its subject in number and gender.Thus, the Divine person, in this verse, spoke of Himself as a single person and stated that no other person of deity existed.
It is abundantly clear that Hebrew Monotheism was a believe in one solitary God. It was not an understanding of “one” in a compound sense. To believe in God as a solitary being is of so much importance that Jesus taught it to be the first of all commandments. When Jesus was asked, by a young man, which of the Commandments was the first of all, he was told by Christ that the first commandment was “Here O, Israel the Lord Our God Is One Lord.” (Mark 12:29).
A Solitary "One!"
Heis, The Masculine "One"
Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. (Mark 12:29)
In Mark 12:29 the Greek word John used, to put Jesus’ statement concerning God’s number into Greek, is the Greek masculine word for “one.” This word is “heis.”
The use of this particular word is very important in our study of the true meaning for the term “one,” as this term relates to God.
The interest here lies in the fact that this word, “heis,” did not have to be used. Other Greek words for “one” could have been employed, such as “hen” “tis,” or even “mia.” There are reasons why the particular word “heis,” and not any other words for one, is used to describe the number of God. For example, “mia” could not have been used because it is of the feminine gender. If the word “mia’” was used it would mean that God was feminine. The word “hen” could not have been used because it is of the neuter gender; if “hen” would have been used it would mean that God was a compound one (Trinitarians really need this word to be in Mark 12:29 - it is not!). The choice of the masculine “heis” is descriptive of just how God is one. The following is a list of scholars and their comments on the Greek masculine “one.”
Joseph Henry Thayer: “Heis” means the cardinal numeral ONE. Where the word “heis” takes the place of a predicate it means one person. (Page 186. A Greek, English Lexicon of the New Testament.)Mr. A. T. Robertson: “One,” when masculine (heis) sets forth the idea of the cardinal numeral “one.” When referring to people or beings, ALWAYS the numeral “one” is implied. (Page 186 vol 5; pages 526 and 527, vol 4; page 299 vol 4. Word Pictures of the Greek New Testament.)Bauer: The masculine “one” (heis) means, A single; only one. (Page 230 Bauer’s Greek Lexicon.)Gingrich: The masculine “one,” (heis), is equivalent to ‘protos’ which means ‘first’. Only one; single. (Page 57, Shorter Lexicon of the Greek New Testament).
The amazing truth is that “heis” is found 93+ times in the New Testament relating only to people, and never is this word used for more that one person, Never!
The importance of the Greek masculine “ONE” being used by John for the words of Jesus (Mark 12:29) is this: The LORD God of Israel is said to be One Person.
Hen - The Neuter “One”
As has already been stated, the neuter “one’ (hen) is the word used when a compound “one” is in view. It would seem that this word would be very important to the Trinitarian doctrine of the compound one. It is this Greek word that is used when a number of things, or beings are said to be one, such as a husband and wife, etc. Let us look to the scholars of the Greek language for a better understanding of this word:
Robert Young: “One’ when neuter means “one thing.” (Page 719 Young’s Analytical Concordance of the Bible.)Joseph Henry Thayer: “One” when neuter means, to be UNITED in one will or spirit. (Page 186 and 187, A Greek-english Lexicon of the New Testament.)Archibald Thomas Robertson: “One” when neuter shows a unity; a oneness of identity. (Page 526, vol. 4; page 186 vol 5, Word Pictures of the Greek New Testament.)William Edwy Vine: “One” when neuter may be used to show a numeral one of a thing, or it may be used to show UNITY of more than someone or thing.
The form of the numeral used when two or more persons are said to exist as “one” is the nominative neuter form “hen.” This is very pronounced in the following scriptures:
John 11:52 “And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather unto one (hen) the children of God that were scattered broad.” ∼ In this text we are told that many people are to be made ONE. Therefore, it is the nominative neuter from of the word “one” which is used. “HEN” would have been the only proper word in this case.1 Corinthians 3:6-8 “I have planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he that planteth is anything, neither he that watereth, but God that giveth the increase. Now He that planteth and he that watereth are one (hen).” ∼ In this passage, the word “one” is “hen,” because two people are said to be one in the sense of UNITY.Ephesians 2:14 “For he is our peace, who hath made both one (hen) and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us.” Here, “both” means Jews and Gentiles. These two groups of people are made “one.” Becasue it is UNION of more that ONE person or group, the neuter word hen is required to describe the oneness.
The importance of all this to our question, How is God One, Compound or Solitary? is that the oneness of God is NEVER referred to with the neuter word (which must be the case, if a plurality of persons is in view). The oneness of God is, however, ALWAYS referred to with the masculine word “heis” (which must be the case if the oneness means a solitary one in number).
Conclusion: The monotheism of the bible is such that demands the existence of One Only Sentient Being as God. Further, that this One Sentient Being must alone be worshipped. The worship of any God-person beyond the number "one" is unbiblical, unChristian, even blasphemy.
☩ David Ignatius
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