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Unitarian principles confirmed by Trinitarian testimonies : being selections from the works of eminent theologians belonging to orthodox churches online

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uncommon to assume that the Holy Spirit and the Divine Saviour are
both revealed in the Old Testament. . . . We understand it as the
third person of the Holy Trinity. The usage in the Old Testament
does not necessarily imply such a knowledge. ... It was either a name
of God himself, not indicating any pecuharity in his natm'e, or the
expression of the diNine energy as it produced results in the material
world, or enlightened and directed the human mind. . . . Li like man-
ner, the Son of God was not known in his mysterious unity with the
Father. . . . However clear it may be to our minds, that many of these
passages [those wliich contain express allusions to him] are consistent
with the absolute Di\inity of Christ and of his co-equality with the
Father, it is by no means e^ddent that they conveyed such an idea to
the Jews. . . . The Hebrew Scriptures, read in their independent
obscmity, and without the solvent for their almost enigmatical intima-
tions which is furnished by the New, would scarcely enable the most
sanguine mind to discover in the promised (5ne the fulness of the
Godhead. Certain it is, that no decisive facts can be adduced to show
that the Hebrews ever obtained from their ScrijDtures a well-defined
spiritual idea of the complete character of Jesus, or were led to expect
liim as a king possessing the attributes and enjoying the throne with
God himself. . . . Nowhere is it indicated, in language sufficiently
exact to convey the idea definitely, that the Messiah was really the
God of the Jews, or the Son of God, equal in all divine attributes with
the Father. It is quite certain, that, when Christ appeared, even
those who knew him most intimately were 'not prepared to appreciate
him in this exalted and mysterious character. — Dr. Seth Sweetser,
in Bibliotheca Sacra for January, 1854; vol. xi. pp. 97-10 L

Taking up, in our next volume, seriatim, all the texts of the Old Testa-
ment which have been thought to intimate the existence of a divine Trinity
or plurality, or of what are called the second and third persons in the God-
head, it will be our object, by the continuous aid of orthodox divines, not
only to confirm the maui sentiment expressed in the extracts just made, but
to prove that there is not the slightest foundation in tte Jewish Scriptures
for the truth of these doo mas.


§ 2. A Tkiune God and the Deity of Christ unknown to the

Ancient Jews.

The Jews . . . expected a Messiah that would be, not the Son of
God by his own nature, but only a man Mke the other prophets, though
surpassing them in wisdom, virtue, and capacity to obtain and govern
the whole world. — Philip Melancthon, as quoted by Dr. Cox in
his Life of Melancthon, p. 120.

The great mystery of the Trinity, though it be frequently inti-
mated in the Old Testament, yet it is an hard matter rightly to under-
stand it without the New ; insomuch that the Jews, though they have
Lad the law above three thousand, and the prophets above two thou-
sand, years amongst them, yet to this day they could never make this
an article of faith ; but they, as well as the Mahometans, still assert that
God is only one in person, as well as nature. — Bishop Beveridge :
Private Thoughts, part ii. p. 66.

Very good ; but where, without the previous hypothesis of this doctxine,
are these intimations to be found ? or, if they did exist, how is it that they
were never discovered by the Jews?

The ancient prophecies give more proofs of our Lord's Divinity
than is generally thought. . . . The Jews, probably before, most cer-
tainly after, the incarnation, interjoreted these expressions in another
way. They seem to have been, in a great measure, strangers to the
doctrine I am explaining, and to have looked for nothing in the Mes-
siah's person but what was human ; nothing in the deliverance to be
wrought by him but what was temporal. Their first disputes with
the Christians were not only whether Jesus was the Messiah, but
whether the Messiah was to be more than man ; and therefore it hath
been an unsuccessful as well as useless attempt to prove this article
of the Christian faith from some obscure passages of the ancient Hab-
bins. — De. Thos. Mangey : Plain JVotions of our Lord's Divinity j
pp. 8, 9.

Though the general belief of the Jews at that time [when Jesus*
was on earth] was, that the Messiah would be a much greater man
than David, a mighty conqueror, and even a universal monarch, the
sovereign of the kings of the earth, who was to subdue all nations,
and render them tributary to the chosen people ; yet they still suj)-
posed him to be a mere man, possessed of no higher nature than
that which he derived from his earthly progenitors. — Dr. George
Campbell : The Four Gospels, Dissert, vii. part i. § 9.


To keep them steadfast in the belief of the divine unity and spirit-
uality, was as much perhaps as was intended by all the revelations of
speculative doctrines made to the Israelites; nor will this purpose
appear unworthy of all the means which the Almighty made use of in
effecting it, whether we consider then- usual proneness to idolatry and
polytheism, or the deleterious effects in practice wliich have been uni-
formly found accompanjing these errors in behef. This has been
suggested by an excellent di"\dne as a reason why the doctrine of the
Truiity, which forms so mteresting and essential a part of the orthodox
creed, was not revealed to the Jews, or at least is not to be so readily
collected from the Scriptures of the Old TesUmient, as it is from the
uniform tenor of the gospel. . . . Had the Jews been taught by Moses,
as Christians have been since m the gospel, that in the divine essence
were three distinct persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost,
it is evident, that, circumstanced as they were, this doctrine would
have quickly been corrupted to sanction the most pernicious errors. . . .
It is, however, contended by some, that the more learned Jews in later
times were not unacquainted with this doctrine ; and it is certain that
Cluistians, assisted by the hght of the gospel, are enabled to collect
some very strong proofs of it from the writings of Moses and the jn'o-
phets. But that the people at large were entirely without the notion
of a Trinity, is evident enough ; and, in the scheme of the divine nature
dehvered to them, they were not cautioned against confounding the
persons in the Godhead, lest, from the natural tendency of weak minds,
they should fall into the opposite extreme of dividing the substance,
which, according to their moral and intellectual state at the time, would
have proved to them the far more dangerous delusion. — J. Browne :
Sermons preached at tlie Lecture founded by John Bampton, pp. 85-8.

Instead of alleging that the doctrine of the Trinity was not revealed to
the Jews because it would have led them to idolatrous practices, we should
be disposed to assign another reason, — that God is not, as Trinitarians say,
three persons, but, as the united voices of reason and revelation testily,
only one.

The opinion of Calixtus [who published, in 1645 and 1649, two
essays against the notion that the doctrine of a Trinity was to a greater
or less degree known to the IsraeHtes at the time when the New
Testament was written, at least that a plurality in the Godhead was
beHeved by them] . . . has gradually obtained the approbation of most
theologians of the present time. — G. C. Knapp : Christian TTieology,
sect, xxxiv.


This argument [derived from the ajDOcryphal Book of Enoch dis-
covered in x\byssinia by James Bruce], in proof that the Jews, before
the birth of Christ, beheved the doctrine of the Trinity, appears to
me much more important and conclusive than that which has been
indeed frequently, but to my mind, I confess, not satisfactorily, deduced
from the philosophical principles of the ancient Cabala. CabaHstical
theology, I well know, has its aziluth, or emanations of Deity ; but
these, I am convinced, notwithstanding the persuasions of many Chris-
tians upon the subject, were at no period ever contemplated by the
Jews themselves as distinct persons, but merely as distinct energies,
in the Godhead. Indeed, if the argument has any force at all, it
is calculated to prove more than its advocates wish ; for it goes to
demonstrate, that the Jews beheved in ten, not in three, personal
emanations of Deity ; for such is the number of the Sephiroth. Ima-
gination is always ready to discover resemblances where none in reahty
exist; but sober reasoning can never surely approve the indiscreet
attempt of representing Cliristian truth as arrayed in the meretricious
garb of the Jewish Cabala. That singular, and, to those perhajDS who
penetrate its exterior surface, fascinating system of allegorical subtle-
ties, has, no doubt, its brighter as well as its darker parts, — its
true as well as its false allusions; but, instead of reducing its wild
combinations of opinion to the standard of Scripture, we shall, I am
persuaded, be less likely to err if we refer them to the ancient and
predominant philosophy of the East ; from which they seem to have
originally sprung, and from w^hich they are as inseparable as the sha-
dow is from its substance. — Archbishop Laurence : Prelwiinary
Dissertation on his Translation of tlie Book of Enoch, pp. Hv. — Ivi.
third edition.

Dr. Laurence thinks that the apocryphal book referred to at the com-
mencement of the precedmg extract was written by a Jew, not many years
before the birth of Christ; Moses Stuakt, that it was composed by an
oriental Christian Jew, during the latter half of the first century. The
principal passage on which the archbishop founds his opinion, that the
ancient Jews believed the doctrine of the Trinity, reads as follows: "He
[the Elect onel shall call to every power of the heavens, to all the holy above,
and to the power of God. The Cherubim, the Seraphim, and the Ophanim,
all the angels of power, and all the angels of the Lords, namely, of the Elect
one, and of the other Power, who (was) upon earth over the water on that
day, shall raise their united voice," &c. Chap. Ix. 13, 14. But nothing is
said here of a Trinity of persons in one God, or of the co-equality and con-
substantiality of " the Elect one " and " the other Power." All that can be
inferred is, that they were superior to the angels.



But even tlie slightest aspect of a Triune Deity, if there be any in the
words quoted, is done away with in the following translation of Dr. A. G.
Hoffman, as cited by Moses Stuart in his work on the Apocalypse, vol. i.
p. 69: " Angels of power and all angels of lordships {i.e. who are of supei'ior
order), and the Elect and the other Powers, Avho were on earth over the
water in that day; i.e. superior angels present and assisting at the crea-

We quote another passage (chap. xlvi. 1, 2), which clearly represents the
" Son of man" as distinct from, and inferior to, " the Ancient of days," or
" Lord of spirits : " — " Then I inquired of one of the angels, who went with
me, and who showed me every secret thing, concerning this Son of man;
who he was; whence he was; and why he accompanied the Ancient of days.
He answered and said unto me, This is the Son of man, to whom righteous-
ness belongs, with Avhom righteousness has dwelt, and who Avill reveal all
the treasures of that which is concealed ; for the Lord of spirits has chosen
him, and his portion has surpassed all before the Lord of spirits in everlast-
ing uprightness."

It is not at all improbable that some of the learned Jews who resided in
the East, and had intercourse with the Chaldeans and Persians, may have
imbibed from them their philosophical notions respecting divine powers and
intelligences connected with, and dependent on, the Supreme Being. At
all events, to use the language of Dr. J. Pye Smith (Script. Test., vol. i.
p. 338), " we have sufficient evidence that the doctrines of religion [in the
latter portion of the interval between the closing of the Old Testament and
the general diffusion of Christianity] were corrupted even to the first prin-
ciples, and that its profession and practice had lost almost every character
of a reasonable service." But there seems no reason to believe, that the
great body of the Jews, and particularly those of Palestine, had the faintest
conception of a Triad of hypostases in the divine nature, or of the Supreme
Divinity of the expected Messiah.

I cannot but look upon it as unfortunate, that PiCUS of Mirandola,
and other writers, should have quoted these cabalistic forgeries [the
llabbinical and Talmudical writings] as supportmg the Christian doc-
trines of the Trinity, Incarnation, &c. — Dr. Edward Burton :
Bampton Lectures, p. 301.

Is it not monstrous, that, the Jews ha%ang, according to "VVhitakek
[in liis " Origin of Arianism Disclosed "], fuUy beheved a Trinity, one
and aU, but half a century or less before Trypho, Justin should never
refer to this general faith ; never reproach Trypho with the present
opposition to it as a heresy from their own forefathers, even those
who rejected Christ, or rather Jesus as Christ ? But no : not a single
objection ever strikes Mr. Whitaker, or appears worthy of an answer.
The stupidest become authentic ; the most fantastic abstractions of the
Alexandrine dreamers, substantial reahties ! I confess this book has


satisfied me how little erudition will gain a man now-a-days the
reputation of vast learning, if it be only accompanied with dash and
insolence. — S. T. Coleridge : Literary Remains ; in Works, vol. v.
pp. 455-6.

Dr. AiiLix undertakes to prove [in the " Judgment of the Jewish
Chm-ch," " a work " wliich, Dr. Pye Smith says, is " not remarkable
for accm*ate statement or judicious reasoning"], that the Jews, before
the time of Christ, according to the received expositions of the Old Tes-
tament, derived from their fathers, had a notion of a pluraHty of persons
in the imity of the divine essence, and that tliis plm-ahty was a Trinity ;
that, according to the doctrine of the old synagogue, the Jews appre-
hended the Word as a true and proper person j and held that the
Word was the Son of God, — that he was the true God, — that he
was to be Jehovah indeed. I confess that I am not prepared to go to
the full length of these positions. I think it in the highest degree
probable . . . that the Jews expected a Messiah who should be a
sharer in the divine nature, but not one who should be equal with
God. We cannot easily believe, that even the more enHghtened of
their nation had such a knowledge of the nature of their Christ as we
derive from the recorded testimony of our Saviom' and his apostles ;
nor, if it be granted that they looked for a divine Redeemer, does it
necessarily follow that they thought him equal to, much less united
with, the Supreme God. . . . That they should have expected their
Messiah to have been very and perfect God, of one substance with the
Father, is, I tliinlv, more than we are warranted in asserting. This
I believe to have been one of those sublime doctrines which were
reserved for the fuller disclosure of the great mystery of godliness.
High and majestic as were the titles which the prophets had applied
to the Messiah, — titles importing nothing less than his being invested
with the most striking attributes of the Deity, — yet they were qua-
lified by many descriptions which impHed that he was to be subject to
the accidents of human nature ; so that, in all likelihood, the Jews
expected that he who was described, in their Scriptures both as Son
of God and Son of man was to be a divine being, of transcendent
power and dignity, yet acting with delegated authority, and shining
with imparted Kght. — Bishop Blo^mfield : Dissertation upon the
Traditional Knowledge of a Promised Redeemer, pp. 96-8.

In his Preface, p. iv., the learned prelate acknnvledges that the Jewish
commentaries have been corrupted from the impi re fountains of heathen


Nor would such a mythus [as that of the mu-aculous conception, if
it were a mythus] have been consistent with Jemsh modes of thought.
... Such a fable as the birth of the ]\Iessiah from a virgin could have
arisen anpvhere else earlier than among the Jews. Then* doctrine
of the Divine Unity, which placed an impassable gulf between God and
the world ; then- high regard for the marriage-relation, which led them
to abhor unwedded life ; and, above all, their full persuasion that the
Messiah was to be an ordinary man, undistinguished by any thing
supernatm-al, and not to be endoM'ed ^^'ith di^ine power, before the
time of his solemn consecration to the Messiahship, — all conspu'ed
to render such an invention impossible among them. — AUGUSTUS : Life of Jesus, pp. 14, 15.

[1] Were the Jews Trinitarians, before the coming of Christ ? I
know of no satisfactory evidence of this fact. All the efforts to prove
It have ended in mere appeals to cabaH2dng Jews, who lived long after

the New Testament was written [2] If it be true, as some

assert, that the Jews of our Saviour's time, before they became Chris-
tians, were accustomed to beheve that theu' Messiah was to be a divine
person, how can it be accounted for, that, after the first generation of
Christians among them, the great body of Jewish converts in Pales-
tine, and many elsewhere, became Ebionites, the j^ecuHarity of whose
opinion was a denial of the di\ine natm-e of that Saviour Avhom they
professed to honor ? If all the tendency of their education and tradi-
tional behef had been as stated above, this fact seems to be altogether
unaccountable. It speaks more than volumes of mere reasoning from
conjecture, or from the declarations of Kabbins hving long after the
Christian era had commenced ; of which we fuid such striking exam-
ples in P. Allix's learned book on ancient Jewish opinions. . . . How
much the pious Jews of ancient times actually deduced from such
passages [of the Old Testament as appear to ascribe a di\'ine nature to
the Messiah, and to set forth the Spirit of God as a divine person] we
do not know; and we possess no adequate means of determining.
But that the later Jews, and in particular those cotemporary with the
apostles, knew nothing of the doctrine of a Trinity, seems to be ren-
dered nearly certain from the fact, that neither Josephus, nor Philo in
all his numerous speculations on the subject of religion, gives any inti-
mation of this. Whatever there is in Philo that seems to approach
to this, is merely the eclectic philoso])hy intermingled with his reli-
gious views, and may be found in heathen writers almost or quite as
fully as in him. At all events, the Nazarsean and Ebionltish sects, so


prevalent among early Christian Jews, incontestably prove what the
usual and predominant state of the Jewish mind was. — Moses Stuaht.

The first extract is taken from Stuart's " Critical History of tlie Old-
Testament Canon," p. 407; the second, from his article on Schleiermacher,
in the " Biblical Repository " for April and July, 1835, vol. vi. p. 107.

The Hebrew people were Httle concerned vnih. metaphysical ques-
tions. . . . That Jehovah, who is highly exalted above all that is finite,
who according to the very idea of him is in\isible, whose very aspect
is consuming, should come do^\^l to this world, clothe himself with a
costume that is finite, and become man, — this thought is wholly
foreign to the Hebrew religion, in itself considered. Much rather
must we admit, that the Hebrew rehgion glories in the fact, that, in
opposition to the heathen w^orld, it holds fast the holy personality of
Jehovah, pure and highly exalted above nature and the whole world ;
but this it could not do, if it had established a dfiovata, e.g. of humanity
with Divinity in any sense. To keep itself above all natm-al reHgion,
the moral view taken by the Hebrew religion must form for itself such
a metaphysical view of the relation between God and the world, as
lay far distant from God's becoming a man ; yea, even such an one
that the Hebrew world would shudder and be astonished at a thought
like tliis. — J. A. Dornee, apud Stuart, in Bib. Sac, vol. vii. p. 699.


I do not think that we ought to use, as an authority, the last para-
phrases, in which is often found the term " Word," when God is
spoken of, — I say, that we ought not to use them as an authority to
prove the Divinity of the Word in the New Testament. Such ex-
pressions are explained by the Jews otherwise than by Christians;
and, besides, it is not judicious to make the truths of Christianity
depend on uncertain allegories, which are most commonly founded on
the imagination of the Jevv^ish doctors. — Father Simon : Histoire
Critique du Vieux Testament, liv. iii. chap. 24.

With much better reason the same Frenchman disapproves of the
use of the Targums for the proof of the loyog, or Word, in that sense
in which we find it expressed in the first chapter of the Gospel of St.
John. For through all those Targums, m a great number of places
where mention is made of God in the original Hebrew, it being ren-
dered " the word of God " in the Chaldee interpretation, hence the


Chaldee Memra, which in that phrase sigiiifieth "the "Word," hath
been thought to correspond with the Greek ?i6yo^ in that Gospel, and
both exactly to denote the same thing. And, therefore, several learned
men have endeavored to explain the one by the other, and from hence
to prove the Di\inity of our Sa-vioui'. But others, as well as Monsieiur
Simon, bemg sensible that this phrase in the Chaldee being an idiom
in that language, which may be otherwise explained, they are against
pressuig any argument from it for this point, because it is capable
of an answer to which we cannot well reply. — Dr. H. Prideaux,:
The Old and J^ew Testament Connected, vol. ii. pp. 355-6.

Though they [namely, the Eabbins] frequently used the expression,
y]"} i^y2'^'!2^ that is, the word of God, especially in their Targums or
paraphrases, they did not mean to express a separate and distinct
being from Jehovah liimself, or, as we should say, the second person
of the Trinity. The word i*"^^"^ is frequently used in the Chaldee
paraphrases as equivalent to the Hebrew tsian, that is, the JVame, a
term by wliich the Jews — who, out of superstitious reverence for the
word " Jehovah," avoided the uttering of it as much as possible —
denoted the SujDreme Being. See, for instance, Isa. xxvi. 4, in the
Chaldee paraphrase. — J. D. ]MiCHAELis : Introduction to the JVew
Testament, vol. iii. part i. pp. 280-1.

* It has been said tliat the Christians came to speak of Christ as the
Word, because, in the Jewish Targums, Memra, or the Word, was
substituted for the ineffable name " Jehovah." The fact appears to
be partly true ,• but the argument deduced from it is extremely fal-
lacious. When we read of God acting or sjieaking by himself, he is
said in the Targums to have acted or spoken "by his word; " and it
has been asserted that Memra, or " the Word," is used distinctively
for the Messiah. But it has been proved satisfactorily, that Memra is
never used in the Targums for a distmct and separate person : it is,
in fact, only another form for the pronoun " himself." It was at first
applied only to Jehovah, as when he is said " to have sworn by him-
self," or " to have made a covenant between himself and any one."
The use of the term was afterwards transferred to human actions ;
and though the Targums apply it in those places wliich they interpret
of the Messiah, yet this appHcation of it is by no means exclusive ;
and, as I have said, it is never used for a person separate and distinct
from the principal subject of the sentence. — Dr. Robert Burton :
Bampton Lectures ; in Theological Works, vol. iii. pp. 221-2.


The following appear to be the results of impartially examining
this question : 1. That the primary import of the Chaldee expression
[" the word of Jah "] is thai, whatever it may be, which is the medium
of communicating the mmd and intentions of one person to another.
2. That it hence assumed the sense of a reciprocal pronoun. 3. That,
when used in the latter sense, its most usual appHcation is to the

Online LibraryJohn WilsonUnitarian principles confirmed by Trinitarian testimonies : being selections from the works of eminent theologians belonging to orthodox churches → online text (page 38 of 55)