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Particulars of Christianity:
302 The Trinity

The Trinity: The Trinity in the New Testament

The Angel of YHWH as YHWH God
The Angel of YHWH as Distinct from YHWH God
Immediate Interactive Dialogue
A Consistent Expectation about Seeing God's Face
Survey Examining Eternal Past Existence
Establishing Eternal Past Existence
Distinction of the Spirit of YHWH
Ancient Jewish Recognition of Trinitarian Facts
The Trinity in the New Testament
Addendum 1 & 2
Addendum 3

Having seen the defining components of Trinitarian doctrine asserted thematically throughout the Old Testament, we now turn our attention to the New Testament. At first it might seem that questions about the Trinity or heresies like Modalism and Arianism are strictly a matter of explaining potential differences between the Old and New Testaments. In other words, it is assumed or perceived that the New Testament teaches the Trinity and that the Old Testament does not. Consequently, demonstrating the Trinity in the Old Testament would entirely resolve any perceived conflicts between the two testaments concerning the nature of the Godhead. However, starting from the misperception that the Old Testament does not teach the Trinity, some have approached the New Testament with a view toward reconciling its view of the Godhead with an Old Testament view that allegedly is non-Trinitarian. For this reason, questions have arisen concerning whether or not even the New Testament presents the Word and the Spirit as uncreated, eternally distinct consciousnesses within the Godhead, as created sub-deities (Arianism), or even as temporary, transient modes of a single consciousness in the Godhead (Modalism). After all, if the New Testament doesn’t teach the Trinity, why even question whether or not the Old Testament does so. Consequently, for the sake of showing the absolute consistency between the Old and the New Testaments concerning assertions of the Trinity, we will now move on to discuss the same issues regarding the New Testament, which we previously examined in the Old Testament.

The Pre-incarnate Word as YHWH of
the Exodus Who Appeared to Moses

One of the prominent and early themes that we established from the Old Testament was that the figure known as the angel of YHWH was understood to be YHWH himself visiting men in a humbler, interactive guise, either of a fiery angel or a man. Consequently, the first question that we have to ask is whether or not this understanding is consistent with the New Testament? This doctrine can be clearly seen by the examination of a few, clear New Testament passages.

We have already seen some New Testament attestation of these facts earlier during our examination of the Old Testament. In particular, we saw how the book of Revelation described Jesus Christ as the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. These were the same titles that the book of Isaiah applied the angel of YHWH, YHWH who led Israelites during the Exodus. Consequently, both Isaiah and Revelation identify the angel (or Word) of YHWH with the same, uniquely diving titles.

Likewise, we also saw how Revelation described the pre-incarnate Christ as the Almighty. Moreover, we saw how the term “the Almighty” in Revelation is the Greek equivalent to the Hebrew name by which God was known to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob before he revealed the name YHWH to Moses in Exodus 3 and 6. And lastly, we also saw how Revelation referred to the person of Jesus Christ as “the living one,” “who was and is and is to come.” Such phrases reflect the very meaning of the name “YHWH,” which reflects God’s uncreated, always existing status and, thereby, ascribe that uncreated, eternal status to the person of the Word.

Consequently, the application of titles for the angel of YHWH to the person of Jesus Christ in the New Testament demonstrates that the New Testament identified Jesus Christ with the angel of YHWH in the Old Testament. However, these are just a few of the evidences demonstrating that the New Testament was merely retaining the Old Testament’s doctrine of the Trinity.

Chapter 1 of John’s Gospel establishes several critical components of this doctrine. It establishes that prior to the incarnation, the figure who became Jesus Christ was known as the Word. It summarily refers to his Old Testament history and visitations to the patriarchs and prophets with the phrase “He was in the world.”

John 1:10 He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. 11 He came unto his own, and his own received him not…14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

It establishes that this figure is God and that he was with others who are also deemed to be God, which relates to their being multiple, consciously distinct persons within the Godhead of YHWH. And it places the Word as already existing at the very threshold of the beginning and as the Creator rather than a creation in the creation narrative, both of which were Old Testament indicators of YHWH’s uncreated, eternal past existence.

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 The same was in the beginning with God.

It establishes that the Word is the Creator, the one who spoke, in Genesis, which would include the reference to the voice of God walking in the garden in Genesis 3.

John 1:3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made…10 He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.

And it establishes that every time YHWH was seen or encountered in the Old Testament, it was not the figure known as the Father but the figure known as the Word who was being seen. This would pertain directly to Moses’ seeing YHWH in 33- 34 as well as to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the Israelites from Genesis to Deuteronomy.

John 1:18 No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.

Furthermore, Paul agrees that prior to the incarnation, it was the pre-incarnate person of Jesus Christ who led the Israelites during the Exodus journey. As we saw from Exodus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, this was the figure known as the angel of YHWH, who led the people in the pillar of cloud and fire even as they passed through the red sea. Specifically, in verse 4, Paul refers to that Rock that followed the Israelites as the pre-incarnate Christ, stating even that when the Israelites of the Exodus testing God’s patience, it was the pre-incarnate Christ that they were testing.

1 Corinthians 10:1 Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; 2 And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; 3 And did all eat the same spiritual meat; 4 And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ…9 Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents.

The references to “the Rock” that followed the Israelites during the Exodus is a reference to the pillar, which moved behind the Israelites separating them from the Egyptian army that followed them. As Exodus 14 below indicates, this occurred right before the Israelites passed through the sea. Both of these events are mentioned by Paul in 1 Corinthians 10, who apparently had this passage from Exodus 14 in mind as he wrote. And interestingly enough, Exodus 14 is one of the key passages that we used to demonstrate that the figure known as the angel of YHWH was indeed YHWH God in a humbler, visiting form. One of these proofs came from the fact that Exodus 14 uses the terms “angel of God” and “YHWH” interchangeably to describe the figure within the pillar, just as Exodus 3 does concerning the figure within the burning bush.

Exodus 14:17 And I, behold, I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they shall follow them: and I will get me honour upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host, upon his chariots, and upon his horsemen. 18 And the Egyptians shall know that I am the LORD, when I have gotten me honour upon Pharaoh, upon his chariots, and upon his horsemen. 19 And the angel of God, which went before the camp of Israel, removed and went behind them; and the pillar of the cloud went from before their face, and stood behind them: 20 And it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel; and it was a cloud and darkness to them, but it gave light by night to these: so that the one came not near the other all the night. 21 And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the LORD caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided…24 And it came to pass, that in the morning watch the LORD looked unto the host of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and of the cloud, and troubled the host of the Egyptians.

Additionally, the phrase “the Rock,” which Paul uses here in 1 Corinthians 10, is also a specific reference back to Moses’ own words in Deuteronomy 32, where YHWH who led the people during the Exodus is referred to as “the Rock.”

Deuteronomy 32:3 Because I will publish the name of the LORD: ascribe ye greatness unto our God. 4 He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he…15 But Jeshurun waxed fat, and kicked: thou art waxen fat, thou art grown thick, thou art covered with fatness; then he forsook God which made him, and lightly esteemed the Rock of his salvation…18 Of the Rock that begat thee thou art unmindful, and hast forgotten God that formed thee…31 For their rock is not as our Rock, even our enemies themselves being judges.

In particular, we note verse 18 of Deuteronomy 32, which states that this Rock, who is God, is the one that formed the Israelites as a nation, just as the five books of Moses recount. Furthermore, there is another important point that follows from the fact that Paul identifies this Rock, who formed the nation of Israel, as the pre-incarnate Jesus Christ. Specifically, the fact that it was the pre-incarnate Christ who formed Israel is what forms the basis of John’s statement that the incarnate Word, “came unto his own.” He was born as a Jew living among the Jews, his own people, the nation he himself had directly formed from the days of Abraham in Genesis and particularly during the Exodus journey where he gave them their covenant, government structure, and laws.

John 1:11 He came unto his own, and his own received him not.

Even John’s comment that nationally speaking, his own people did not receive him is clearly a reflection of Moses statement in Deuteronomy 32 that Israel would forget and forsake the God who made them, the pre-incarnate Word, the figure known as the angel of YHWH in Exodus.

It is clear from such New Testament passages, that the Jewish men who authored these words were not only well-acquainted with the Trinity in the Old Testament, but they were directly affirming the Old Testament understanding that we outlined in detail during the first half of this study. They are presenting a consistent picture and they are expressing that in their eyes, this was a consistent picture. In addition, it must not go unsaid that by identifying the pre-incarnate Jesus Christ as YHWH of the Exodus, these first-century Jews (who were the earliest Christians) believed they were worshipping, not a different YHWH than the Israelites of the Old Testament, but the very same figure encountered and worshipped by Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Gideon, and Samson’s parents, etc.

Moreover, in the Old Testament we saw multiple occasions in which one figure of YHWH expressed his own awareness of distinction from other figures of YHWH. We find this Old Testament trend continued in the New Testament as well. Jesus Christ (the angel of YHWH incarnate, the incarnate Word of YHWH) expresses his distinction from the figure of YHWH known as the Father in John 3:35, John 5:19, 20, 43, John 8:28, John 10:25, John 12:44-45, 49, John 14:12, 16, 24, John 15:24, John 17:8, 11, 24, Matthew 10:40-41, Matthew 11:27, Luke 10:22, and Mark 13:32. The Father expresses his distinction from incarnate Word in Matthew 3:17, Matthew 17:5, Mark 1:11, Mark 9:7, and Luke 9:35. On these occasions it is clear that the Father and the Word clearly exist simultaneously. In addition, the text also distinguishes between the Father, the Word, and the Spirit in John 1:1-2, 14 (which we’ve already examined), Luke 11:13, John 14:26, and John 15:26. And the epistles also assert that these persons of the Godhead are distinct and simultaneously existing in 1 Timothy 3:16, 1 Timothy 2:5, Galatians 3:20, Hebrews 1:5-9 (quoting Psalms 2:7), Romans 15:6, 2 Corinthians 11:31, 1 John 5:6, 9-11, and 2 John 9. And finally, just as chapter 1 of John’s Gospel identifies the Word of God as the Lamb of God, Revelation 1:1, 5:1-7, 19:11-20:12, and 22:1 all distinguish between the Father and the Word. And Revelation 22:16-17 distinguishes between the incarnate Word and the Spirit as well. Consequently, like the Old Testament, the New Testament contains plain statements that describe the Father, the Word, and the Spirit as distinct persons who simultaneously exist and interact with one another and many of these statements are made by the figures of YHWH themselves.

Since we have merely listed the supportive passages above, we will now take some time to briefly examine some of the clearest of those passages. The first example comes from John 12:28, where the incarnate Word (Jesus Christ) is praying. During his prayer he addresses the Father as distinct from himself. Then, in the second half of the verse, the Father replies, responding to the Word’s statements. This interactive communication between different figures of YHWH is exactly what we saw in the Old Testament and, like those Old Testament passages it indicates that those figures of YHWH both exist simultaneously and intercommunicate among themselves in a way that expresses their own awareness of conscious distinction from one another. 

John 12:28 Father, glorify thy name. Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.

And while in John 12:28, the Word addresses another figure of YHWH with the title “Father,” in Matthew 3:17, the Father expresses his awareness of distinction from the Word by referring to the Word by the title “my Son.”

Matthew 1:17 And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

The very phrase “my Son” shows an awareness of self by means of the pronoun “my” and also an awareness that the Word is distinct from him in the sense that there is a figure of YHWH that is in a position he himself is not in (specifically, the position of being a “son” to him.)

In addition, John 17 is an extraordinary demonstration of Trinitarianism. The passage is filled with the Word expressing “I” and “thou” distinctions between himself and the figure known as the Father. But most importantly, John 17 not only demonstrates the distinction between the Father and the Word, but it also demonstrates that both of these figures of YHWH existed before creation. Earlier we established that existing before creation was a demarcation of eternal, uncreated status and of being the Creator rather than a creation. This is most clearly seen twice in the passage, once in verse 5 and a second time in verse 24, in which the Word specifically states that he and the Father existed before creation and his words specifically maintain their distinction from one another at that time before creation.

John 17:5 And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was…8 For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me…11 And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are…24 Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.

And concerning the distinction between all three persons of the Trinity, we find the following explicit statements in Luke 11 and John 14. In Luke 11, the Word is speaking and he refers to both the Father and the Spirit rather than saying “I” or “me,” thereby expressing his perception that he is distinct from the figure known as the Father and the figure known as the Spirit. Moreover, because he refers to the Father and the Spirit separately, the Word here plainly certifies that the Father and the Spirit are not the same figure but distinct from one another. And again, this distinction cannot merely be an illusion of human perception since it is the Word himself who asserts this distinction.

Luke 11:13 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?

John 14 is filled with “I” and “he” distinctions between the Word, the Father, and the Spirit in which the Word refers to himself with the pronoun “I” and refers to the Father and the Spirit with the pronoun “he.” And like Luke 11, the Father and the Spirit are listed and spoken of separately rather than being regarded as the same.

John 14:16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another 243 Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; 17 Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. 26 But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.

In addition in verse 16, the Word clearly distinguishes between himself and the Spirit when he refers to the Spirit as “another comforter.” The Greek word for “another” is “allos” (Strong’s No. 243), which simply means “another” or “other.” The definition for “allos” is below.

243 allos
a primary word; TDNT - 1:264,43; adj
AV - other(s) 81, another 62, some 11, one 4, misc 2; 160
1) another, other
For Synonyms see entry 5806

If you follow the cross-reference to the synonym at the end of the definition for “allos,” you find a further definition for “allos” as meaning “243 generally denotes simple distinction of individuals.” Clearly, the Word’s use of “allos” here to refer to the Spirit demonstrates that in the perception of YHWH himself (in the person of the Word), the figure known as the Word and the Spirit are distinct individuals, not the same individual in two different forms or roles as Modalism teaches. Furthermore, the Greek word for “Comforter” is “parakletos” (Strong’s No. 3875), which literally means “one called to someone’s side or aid.” Consequently, according to the Word, it would not be the Word himself who was sent back by the Father to help his disciples but it would be another individual, a figure known by the title “the Spirit of YHWH,” who was sent to help them.

And this distinction between the Word and the Spirit is also expressed by means of their simultaneous existence in two different locations as described in the book of Acts. In Acts, the Spirit of YHWH is understood to have come to earth to be with the disciples while the incarnate Word himself (Jesus Christ) remained in heaven with the figure known as the Father. In Acts 1, Luke 24, and John 16, Jesus states that the Holy Spirit will be sent from the Father to the disciples. And in all of these passages, the Spirit’s coming to the earth from the Father is associated with the Word’s going away from the world to the Father. Clearly, the Spirit is not simply the same person as the Word in another form.

Acts 1:8 But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. 9 And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. 10 And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; 11 Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.

Luke 24:49 And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high…51 And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven.

John  16:7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. 8 And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 9 Of sin, because they believe not on me; 10 Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more…16 A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me, because I go to the Father.

Acts 2 describes the actual coming of the Spirit to the earth to be in the disciples, just as Jesus had foretold in Acts 1, Luke 24, and John 16.

Acts 2:4 And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

Ac 2:33 Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear.

In Acts 8, the Spirit first speaks to Philip and then later picks him up in one location and carries him away to another location.

Acts 8:29 Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot…39 And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing. 40 But Philip was found at Azotus: and passing through he preached in all the cities, till he came to Caesarea.

In Acts 10-11, which Peter recounts in Acts 11, the Spirit comes upon the first Gentile converts, just as he’d come upon the disciples in Acts 2.

Acts 11:15 And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning.

As late as Acts 19, we see the Spirit on earth coming upon disciples.

Ac 19:6 And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.

In contrast, when speaking to the crowds about repentance in Acts 3, Peter instructs them that Jesus Christ (the incarnate Word) remains in heaven and cannot return until a sufficient number of Israelites believe on him. (Paul also expresses this doctrine identically in Romans 11:15, 25-26, stating that when all Israel converts on a national level, the dead will be resurrected, which is an event that takes place at Jesus’ return according to Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17.)

Acts 3:19 Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; 20 And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: 21 Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.

So, as we can see, prior to the death, resurrection, and ascension of the Word into heaven, the Spirit was in heaven with the Father. Then, after the Word’s ascension, the Word was to remain in heaven with the Father while the Spirit was sent from the Father to the disciples on earth. As we said earlier, clearly the Spirit is not simply the same person as the Word in another form. And clearly, these plain facts demonstrate that the figures known as the Father, the Word, and the Spirit exist simultaneously and in different locations from one another. Moreover, this is similar to passages as early as Genesis 19:24, when YHWH on earth (visiting Abraham in the guise of a man) calls down fire from YHWH out of heaven. So, this New Testament doctrine is one that is, in fact, carried over from the earliest Old Testament theology and view of the Godhead. It is not a New Testament invention.

Furthermore, we have seen the distinction between the Word or angel of YHWH and the Spirit of YHWH in the Old Testament. Likewise, these statements from first-century Jews (who were the first Christians) demonstrates that they understood the angel of YHWH and the Spirit of YHWH to be simultaneously existing and distinct throughout the Old and the New Testaments. These early Jews and early Christians were not Modalists.

Does “Son” Mean the Word Was Created?

We have already seen that the New Testament maintains Old Testament’s assertions concerning the divinely-expressed distinction, the simultaneous existence, and the eternal, uncreated status of three conscious figures of YHWH. However, we now turn to one prominent New Testament claim that at times might bring confusion to this issue. Specifically, we now turn to what the New Testament means when it refers to the Word being “the Son of God.” Does this son-ship indicate that the Word (the Old Testament angel of YHWH) is a creation (and therefore only a sub-deity of some kind)?

Specifically, the Bible uses this “father-son” terminology to refer to sentient beings created directly by God. Luke 3:38 states that Adam was the son of God, given that he was brought into being directly by God with no intervening parents.

Luke 3:38 Which was the son of Enos, which was the son of Seth, which was the son of Adam, which was the son of God.

The angels, including the adversarial angels (i.e. Satan) are referred to as the sons of God in Job, which makes sense since the angels were also created directly by God with no intervening parents.

Job 1:6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them.

Job 2:1 Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them to present himself before the LORD.

In Job 38, God speaks of who was and who was not present on the early days of the creation week when God laid the foundations of the land and limited the boundaries of the waters. This was before man was created on Day 6 of Genesis 1 and yet the sons of God are present at this time. Therefore, this term “the sons of God” can only be a reference to the angels.

Job 38:4 Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding. 5 Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? or who hath stretched the line upon it? 6 Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof; 7 When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?

Daniel likewise seems to extend this term “son of God” to those who have an angelic appearance.

Daniel 3:25 He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.

And even more generally, the title “sons of God” is applied to all men who are spiritually reborn by God. John 1 speaks of this directly.

John 1:12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: 13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

Just 3 chapters later, John’s Gospel explains that we become the sons of God when we are reborn, regenerated, or recreated by the Spirit.

John 3:5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

Paul likewise speaks of men becoming sons of God when we believe, receive, and follow the Spirit of God.

Romans 8:14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. 15 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. 16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: 17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. 18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. 19 For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.

Galatians 4:6 And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.

And like John, Paul’s understanding that we become sons of God when we are reborn by the Spirit is connected to us becoming “new creations.”

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

Galatians 6:15 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.

Consequently, there is the understanding in the Bible that the terminology of the Father-son relationship is a metaphor for the Creator-creation relationship, particularly with regard to sentient creations. As a result of this fact, some have erroneously gone on to conclude that since the Word of YHWH is regarded in the New Testament as the Son of God, he therefore should be understood to be a creation, even if a very high-ranking or even the first creation, effectively a sub-deity of sorts.

However, the problem is that the application of the title “Son” to the Word does not in any way refer to his divine nature. The New Testament teaches that the Word is God and also man. We saw the divine nature of the Word attested to plainly earlier in John 1.

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 The same was in the beginning with God.

However, as we also saw earlier, chapter 1 of John’s Gospel is likewise explicit that in addition to his divine nature, at the incarnation the Word also took on a human nature. This is expressed in the phrase “and the Word was made flesh.”

John 1:14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

So clear was the New Testament understanding that the Word had acquired a human nature, that in John’s epistles he used the denial of this teaching as an indication of heresy.

1 John 4:2 Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: 3 And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.

2 John 1:7 For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.

Of course, there are many other New Testament passages attesting to the Word taking on a human nature at the incarnation in the womb of Mary, where he was conceived as any human child would be except for the lack of a human father. However, what is significant here is that it is the Word’s acquired human nature, since it is created, that makes the Word a son of God. In fact, John’s reference to the Word as begotten of the Father and being seen by men in chapter 1:14 is only used as a restatement further explaining what he means by the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among men.

John 1:14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

Consequently, it is quite clear even from the beginning of the New Testament that the begetting or son-ship of the Word is only connected to his incarnation, to his created human nature. He is not a son with regard to his divine nature only with regard to his acquired humanity. And since his son-ship refers to his human nature only, this term does not make any indications whatsoever that the divine Word was created. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Since the Word only became a son at the incarnation and not before, this actually proves that prior to the incarnation, the Word was uncreated and eternal.

This New Testament proof for the uncreated status of the Word by means of his “son-ship” occurs in Hebrews 1:5 and 5:5, which are quotations that apply Psalms 2:7 to the incarnate Word.

Psalms 2:7 I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.

Hebrews 1:5 For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son?

Hebrews 5:5  So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, to  day have I begotten thee.

The key element in these three passages is the word “to day” or “this day.” These words clearly indicate that the “son-ship” of the Word began at a certain point, on a particular day. However, in these passages one figure of YHWH is also clearly already speaking to the Word before “that day” on which this son-ship occurs. If son-ship conveys creation, then prior to that particular day, the Word was neither a son nor a creation. And that fact, in turn, demonstrates his uncreated, eternal status prior to the incarnation, when he became a son when he himself obtained a human nature, which is a created nature.

In other words, prior to becoming a son at the incarnation, the Word did not have a Creator-creation, Father-son relationship with God. The absence of this Creator-creation, Father-son relationship to God means that the Word was not originally a creation or a son at all. In short, the son-ship of the Word at the incarnation demonstrates prior to the incarnation, the Word had never experienced any manner of being created but was uncreated and eternal. Once again this is proof that the Word is no created sub-deity or recently formed extension of YHWH but he himself is the “I AM,” the uncreated, the existing one, YHWH.

Furthermore, at this point we should also turn our attention to the New Testament book of Hebrews, which absolutely rules out the suggestion that the Word is a mere created being or angel of any kind, even the highest angelic being. Hebrews is repeatedly explicit that the Word is not an angel, for none of the statements made concerning the incarnate Word were said about any angel, nor did any angel ever experience such things.

Hebrews 1:4 Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. 5 For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son? 6 And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him. 7 And of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire. 8 But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom…13 But to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool? 14 Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?

In short, the Word is contrasted to angels, or more specifically, the angels are distinguished from the Word, throughout the opening chapters of the book of Hebrews. For example, if the Word was merely an angel, then how could the author of Hebrews ask, “unto which of the angels said he at any time, ‘Thou art my son?’” If the Word was an angel, even perhaps the highest angel, then the answer to this question would have been simple. The answer would have been, “Easy. God said that to an angel when he said it to the Word.” Even more clearly, in verse 8, the Word is contrasted to the angels in the sense that they are deemed mere spirits and servants while the Word is called “God” when the figure known as the Father says to the Word, “thy throne, O God, is forever.”

Consequently, as we saw in Zechariah 2-3, even though the title “the angel of YHWH” was used with regard to the pre-incarnate Word, this figure was understood not to be a mere angel. Nor was the title understood as an indication that he was an angel. After all, in those chapters of Zechariah, this particular figure is still referred to as “the angel of YHWH” even in the midst of other godly angels. Consequently, this title was not applicable to angels in general, but instead it was uniquely applied as a means of distinguishing this figure from even the godly angels.

And, of course, beyond these specific proofs in the New Testament, we should not forget all the other proofs that we examined earlier, which demonstrated the uncreated, eternal existence of the figure known as the angel of YHWH. The Old and the New Testaments are both clear that the Word is not a creation.

On a related note, in verse 16 of Hebrews 2, the author writes that the Word “took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham.”

Hebrews 2:16 For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham.

First, we should note that the phrase “the seed of Abraham” is a reference to human nature in contrast to angelic nature, which is made plain in verses 9 and 14 below. Second, this statement in verse 16 is not a denial that the Word took on the guise of an angel in the Old Testament, such as during his interactions with Moses and Israel during the Exodus. Rather, it is a statement about the incarnation. Moreover, the statement itself assumes that the Word exists eternally as something other than either an angel or a man. And when the Word took on the nature of a created being, when he actually acquired a created nature (rather than just the temporary guise of one), it was not an angelic nature that he took on, but a mortal, human nature that he took on. And the text is clear that the reason for this was so that he could experience death.

Hebrews 2:9 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man…14 Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; 15 And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. 16 For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham.

Humans are mortal and can die. Angels are immortal and cannot. So, when the eternal, uncreated Word took on a created nature, in order to be able to die, he took on a human nature, not an angelic one. That is what this passage is saying. It is not denying that the Word ever took on the guise of an angel. It is only denying that at the incarnation he actually took on the nature of an angel. This statement is a reference to the nature that the Word took on at the time of the incarnation, not a reference to the Word’s entire history in the Old Testament.

(Furthermore, it also very important to note that we do not assert or believe that the Word actually became an angel or a man in any of his Old Testament visits. Instead, as we have indicated all along, he merely took on the guise or appearance of a mere angel or man. This is distinct from the incarnation since at the incarnation, he actually took on human nature and became human himself, rather than just appearing as a man (or an angel) as he did throughout the Old Testament. Likewise, the same can be said concerning the figure known as the Spirit of YHWH. This is YHWH operating in the guise of a spirit or angelic being as well. But although he operates in that guise, he has not actually acquired that nature as the Word does in the incarnation.)

Now, as we finish this examination of New Testament proofs that the Word of YHWH is not an angel or a created being of any kind but is the very uncreated, eternal YHWH himself, we must turn to one last passage in the book of Hebrews.

Previously, we quoted Hebrews 1:4, which states that the Word was “made so much better than the angels.” Likewise, we quoted Hebrews 2:9, which states that “Jesus was made a little lower than the angels.” The word “made” in these passages does not refer to the Word being created. In Hebrews 2, it refers to the incarnation, the creation of his human nature and says nothing of his Divine existence. In Hebrews 1, the word “made” refers to God elevating him above the angels after he had humbled himself to live as a man, “a little lower than the angels.” Neither case refers to his Divine nature being created. How can we be sure of this?

First, the context of Hebrews 1-2 is clearly not describing the creation of the Word, but instead it refers to the Word as God in chapter 1:8 and then proceeds through chapter 2 to describe how God became man, suffered, died, and afterwards was glorified. This is clearly a description of God humbling himself and then being elevated again after this voluntary lowering of himself. Thus, the “being made” is a reference to this process, not to being created and the immediately surround context demonstrates that plainly.

Second, as we mentioned earlier, chapter 2:16 of Hebrews is clear that the Word had to “take on” a created nature. And in doing so, he didn’t take on an angelic nature but a human nature. The fact that the Word had to “take on” a created nature and the fact that he did not take on an angelic nature, both demonstrate that the Word existed as an uncreated being prior to the time when he “took on” a created nature.

Third, if we expand the context a little further, we arrive at a later chapter in the same book, Hebrews 7. Hebrews 7 speaks of the Word and provides explicit assertions that he is uncreated. Here the author of Hebrews regards the Old Testament record of the king and priest named Melchizedek (Genesis 14:18-20) as a foreshadowing of the Word.

Hebrews 6:20 Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. 7:1 For this Melchisedec, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him; 2 To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace; 3 Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually.

This connection between Melchizedek and the Word is not random, but comes from God himself in Psalms 110:1-4, which Hebrews 6:20 is citing. In this Psalm, God promises to make the Messiah a priest in the order of Melchizedek. And consequently, on the basis of this promise, the author of Hebrews understands the record of Melchizedek to have relevant comparisons to the Messiah himself. And the key comparison that the author makes is found in verse 3. In verse 3, the author of Hebrews states that since the account of Melchizedek does not record his father or mother or his birth or death, the written record itself becomes a foreshadowing of the Word of God. As is plain from the text itself, the author understands that the absence of an ancestral record, birth, or death for Melchizedek parallels the fact that the Messiah would be “without father” or “mother,” “without descent” or ancestry, and having “neither beginning of days, nor end of life.”

Now, the human nature of the Word had a mother. He was conceived in the womb of Mary who was his mother (Matthew 1:16-18, Luke 1:30-32). Furthermore, due to his miraculous intervention by which he caused a woman to conceive without male seed, God is credited as the Father of the Word’s humanity (Luke 1:35). (This is similar to God being crediting as the Father of Adam in Luke 3:38, a fathering that did not involve normal reproduction but merely direct creative action on God’s part.) So clearly the Word’s human nature is not without mother. And certainly the Word’s human nature did not always exist but had a beginning at the conception in Mary. Consequently, these statements do not apply to the Word’s acquired human nature. Instead, they clearly refer to the divine nature of the Word, explicitly stating that the divine nature of the Word is un-fathered (including by God the Father), is without ancestry or lineage leading up to his incarnation, and has no beginning of his life nor ending. Since the phrase “no beginning of days” is specifically mentioned in the text, it is unavoidably plain that the Word is uncreated and without beginning but always existed. The author’s point here is simple, the description of Melchizedek was written in such a way as to prove that when the Son of God, the Messiah, came it was the uncreated Word who would be that Son and Messiah.

In conclusion, we can see that the identification of the Word as “the Son of God” does not mean that the Word was a creation. Instead, only in the sense of acquiring a created human nature did the Word become God’s Son and only at a particular point later in his existence. Prior to this, he existed uncreated. Having now concluded our demonstration that the defining components of the Trinity are clearly taught in both the Old and the New Testaments, we will move on to one final aspect of this study, a summary discussion of the reasoning and meanings behind the titles “Word of YHWH,” “Angel of YHWH,” “Spirit of YHWH,” and even “Father.”

Old Understanding the Titles of the Trinity

The persons in the Old Testament stories and the authors of those accounts use the terms “Word of YHWH,” “angel of YHWH,” and “Spirit of YHWH.” However, in contrast to Exodus 3:1-5 concerning the name YHWH, there are no instances in the Old Testament (or New Testament for that matter) where someone actually announces themselves with such titles. These titles are clearly approved of by God as accurate by virtue of the fact that he inspired their recording in scripture. However, it is important to note that there is no place where these titles or names are revealed directly by God as the titles by which he knows himself.

Consequently, these titles might best be regarded as naming conventions developed early on by God’s people to designate what they had experienced and/or by the authors to make certain delineations when recording events. However, as indicated already, the suggestion that these are naming conventions rather than revealed self-titles for God does not undermine their accuracy as methods of recording and delineating the actions of different Persons of the Trinity. Again, this accuracy is attested to by the fact that God would inspire the recording or codifying of such naming conventions during the writing of scripture. Having clarified these basic concepts, we now move on to discussing the function of each individual naming convention or title.

First, the term “Word of YHWH” most clearly denotes YHWH as a speaker and similarly YHWH as a message-bringer to men, as we often see him particularly in the Old Testament prophets. Likewise, this operation is also what is designated by the related title, “the angel of YHWH.” Like its Greek counterpart “aggelos” (Strong’s No. 32), the Hebrew word for “angel” (“mal’ak,” Strong’s No. (04397) means “messenger.” In stating these simple facts, there is not much controversy.

Furthermore, it is also clear from the earliest and most frequent Old Testament precedent with Abraham, Jacob, Gideon, and Samson’s parents, that the Word or angel of YHWH first and most often appeared as a man to those whom he visited. Since the term “Spirit of YHWH” was used from as early as the first chapter of Genesis, during the earliest interactions there would have a been a distinction between YHWH in the visiting guise of a man and YHWH in the visiting guise of a spirit. The title “the angel or messenger of YHWH” referred to YHWH in the visiting, message-bringing guise of a man. The title “the Spirit of YHWH” denoted YHWH in the guise of other spirit-beings, rather than as a man. Only centuries later would the figure of YHWH who formerly visited in the guise of a man to the patriarchs also appear in the guise of a fiery angel to Moses and the Israelites during the Exodus journey. (In addition, only in the case of Moses on the particular day described in Exodus 33 and 34 did Moses see him in a fully glorified state, during which he was not allowed to see his face lest Moses die.) But by this time, the distinguishing naming conventions had already been developed.

In addition, the fact that this is a naming convention, which became a technical term through normalized usage in the Old Testament, is also indicated by its seemingly developmental nature. For instance, in Genesis 1 the text simply designates YHWH as a speaker with the phrase “And God said,” while Genesis 3:8 adopts the convention “the Voice of YHWH walking in the garden.” (As indicated previously in the study, by the time of Jesus and his apostles, the Jews already interpreted Genesis 3:8 as a reference to the figure known as the Word of YHWH walking in the garden.) And, of course, the Israelites prior to Jesus’ day reflect this understanding of Genesis 3:8. After all, it was these early persons and authors themselves who first adopted these designations to identify this figure of YHWH in the Old Testament passages after Genesis 3:8. This includes their early uses of the title “the Word of YHWH” in Genesis 15:1-4 and the title “the angel of YHWH” in Genesis 16:7-11 and 22:11-15.

As indicated above, the fact that the figure, known as “the Word or the angel of YHWH,” was first experienced by men in the guise of a man is significant because it helps to explain the reasoning behind the title, “the Spirit of YHWH.” Even from Genesis 1, the Word of YHWH is seen acting with a counterpart known as “the Spirit of YHWH” who aids the Word of YHWH in accomplishing what he declares. As indicated above, the designation “Spirit” here is likely a contrast to the appearance of the Word or angel of YHWH as a man. Hence, in the most basic terms, one designation referred to YHWH in the guise of a man and one designation referred to YHWH in the form of the category of beings called spirits. (The term “spirit” would in this sense be referential to the beings commonly known as “angels,” which denotes not their nature but their function as messengers – Psalms 104:4, Hebrews 1:7, 13-14). In short, there are terms denoting YHWH in the guise of a man bearing a message (the Word, the angel) and there are terms denoting YHWH acting as a spirit (the Spirit of YHWH). This seems to be the earliest usage of these terms.

The New Testament then simply utilizes these Old Testament designations to identify its personages in terms of these Old Testament activities. Consequently, Jesus Christ is identified as the incarnation of YHWH the speaker and message-bringer that was experienced by the Jews throughout their Old Testament history. And the Holy Spirit is identified as being “the Spirit of YHWH,” YHWH as a spirit or in the guise of a spirit being (in contrast to the guise of a human being) throughout the Old Testament.

However, the roles signified by these titles are by no means fixed. In other words, these titles should not be understood to denote fixed or inherent differences between the individual Persons of the Trinity. Instead, these titles should be understood as descriptions of the actions of figures of YHWH in the Old Testament. And very early on in the Old Testament those actions became the basis for distinguishing between those figures themselves. In other words, these titles differentiate between the Persons of the Trinity by identifying each Person in terms of the actions or roles they have taken on. But ultimately the titles are not absolute, unique, or inherent on to only one particular Person of the Trinity. Instead, these titles are somewhat interchangeable based upon the fact that the actions or roles they denote are shared by other members of the Trinity. The following three examples will demonstrate this plain fact.

First, as we have seen in our study, the Spirit of YHWH is described in the New Testament as distinct from the figure of YHWH who was identified as the Word or angel of YHWH throughout the Old Testament. Jesus Christ (who the New Testament identifies with the figure known as the Word or angel of YHWH in the Old Testament) refers to the Spirit of YHWH as “another Comforter,” which literally means “another advocate, helper, aid, etc.” The term “another” designates the Word or angel of YHWH (ultimately incarnate and named Jesus) as the first advocate or helper that comes to visit and assist men. The Spirit of YHWH is considered by the incarnate Word to be a distinctly different, second advocate.

However, after his death and resurrection, the incarnate Word ascends to heaven to reside on the heavenly throne of YHWH with the figure of YHWH known as “the Father” until the time of his return. At that point, the Holy Spirit comes and takes over the role of angel or messenger of YHWH, and is even designated as such on occasions in the New Testament. In taking on the role of the angel of YHWH, a role previously occupied by the figure known as the Word, the Spirit becomes a second advocate, just as Jesus declared. The figure of YHWH as Spirit in the Old Testament can clearly serve as YHWH as speaker or messenger, as he does after the ascension in the New Testament. And after the ascension of the incarnate Word, the New Testament specifically titles the Holy Spirit as “the angel of YHWH” in Acts 8:26-29, Acts 12:7, Acts 12:11, Acts 12:23 (compare to Acts 5:1-9), Acts 27:23, and Revelation 1:1, 10 (compare to John 14:16-17, 26, John 15:26, John 16:7-14, Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 29 and 3:6, 13, and 22). As a result, the term “the angel of God,” which is one of the main titles by which the Second Person of the Trinity was identified in the Old Testament, is now being applied instead to the Third Person of the Trinity.

With the figure of YHWH that was formerly known as the Spirit of YHWH now in the role of messenger or speaker to men, it becomes clear that the title the “angel of YHWH,” is not uniquely a designation of the Person known as the Word of God. It is not a description of inherent distinctions in natures among the Persons of the Godhead. Instead, the title is clearly a description of the actions of one particular figure of YHWH in the Old Testament. And very early on in the Old Testament those actions became the basis for distinguishing between that figure of YHWH and others. But after the ascension, that role and the actions it entailed were overtly transferred to another figure of YHWH since the Word, who’d formerly held that title and role, was now going to remain in heaven rather than visiting men on earth.

Second, the Word and the Spirit are very clearly involved in the creation of the universe as indicated plainly in Genesis 1 and elsewhere throughout the Old and New Testaments. Since the title “Father” as applied to YHWH designates his identity as the Creator as well as his loving and guiding authority over his creation, this term “Father” is also ultimately applicable to the figures known as the Word and the Spirit as well. For example, Isaiah 9:6 applies the title “Father” to the Word. Likewise, Deuteronomy 32:18 is speaking of the angel of YHWH when it refers to God “begetting” Israel.

Third, the question arises as to why one specific Person of the Trinity designated by the title “the Spirit of YHWH,” when God is Spirit and all three Persons are therefore Spirit? The answer is that this Person of the Trinity bears this title because of his history of acting in the guise of a spirit-being on par with the spirit-beings known as angels and in contrast to the Person of YHWH who visited men initially and frequently in the form of a man bearing instructions. This is in contrast to the perception that the title “Spirit” refers to an inherent natural distinction between this Person and the other two Persons of the Trinity. Under that explanation the title “the Spirit of God” makes no sense because the supposed distinction that it allegedly reflects does not exist given the fact that all the Persons of the Godhead are Spirit. To solve this dilemma, all that is necessary is to understand that the titles affirm the distinctness of the Divine Persons because the titles distinguish them based upon the history of their individual interactions with men. In this case, the title “Spirit of YHWH” refers to the history of this particular Divine Person who interacted with men in the Old Testament in the guise of an ordinary spirit.

So what do we learn from these examples? We learn that if we understand these titles to designate inherent differences in the Persons of the Trinity, then the titles make no sense since they refer to traits that all Persons of the Trinity share. And if we mistakenly think that the different titles are the proof or the basis of their eternal distinctness from one another, then the fact that they share the traits designated by these titles fundamentally undermines their eternal distinctness. And with their eternal distinctness now blurred by the fact that they share the very traits reflected in the titles, Modalism gains a foothold.

Instead, we must recognize that these titles do not reflect inherent differences between the Divine Persons and that the proof of their eternal distinctness from one another lies in other proofs, such as those we’ve outlined over the course of this study. (For example, their intercommunication with one another and their own statements expressing self-awareness of conscious distinction from one another.) In this way, the eternal distinctness of the Divine Persons is maintained. And not only is their designation by these titles explained but the interchangeable application of these titles and traits to all Persons of the Trinity is also explained without resorting to or creating an opportunity for Modalism.

As we summarized above, the roles signified by these titles are by no means fixed. The titles do not denote fixed or inherent differences between the individual Persons of the Trinity. Instead, these titles are descriptions of the actions of figures of YHWH in the Old Testament. And very early on in the Old Testament those actions became the basis for distinguishing between those figures themselves.

And although these titles are ultimately interchangeable rather than representative of inherent differences between these figures of YHWH, there are several reasons why these titles are maintained throughout the New Testament, even after the incarnate Word ascends into heaven and the Holy Spirit becomes the messenger or angel of YHWH to men.

First, these figures of YHWH are known by and have come to be identified by their actions in the Old Testament. And maintaining the identification of New Testament personages with those Old Testament figures is of central importance in the New Testament for both doctrinal and continuity purposes.

Second, no other figure of YHWH (neither the Father nor the Spirit) has a distinct name such as Jesus. Instead, all these figures are deemed with the name YHWH. Consequently, there is no other way to distinguish one from the other apart from these established Old Testament designations.

And third, the activities of these figures are not arbitrary in either the Old or the New Testaments. But instead the activities of these figures are specifically enacted to demonstrate to both men and immortal spirit-beings (angels) how to relate to God and how God relates to them. YHWH takes on a guise of men (known as the Word) to relate these truths to men and the guise of angels (known as the Spirit) to relate these truths to angels. A figure of YHWH also remains transcendent of creation, thus occupying the designation of “Father” in relation to both groups (men and angels). Since these exemplifying roles continue to some extent after the incarnation and ascension until the plan of YHWH is complete, the designations still apply. The figure of YHWH known as the Word who originally appeared in the guise of a man, still exemplifies for men God’s intentions for our behavior and reward. The figure known as the Spirit still exemplifies for angels God’s intentions for their behavior in service to man despite their elevated nature. And the figure known as the Father still represents the position of God as transcendent Creator, the loving and supreme authority over creation to whom angels and men must direct their obedience and worship.

This is exemplified in John 17:3. John 17:3 is not a declaration by the Word from the perspective of his own divine nature. Rather in John 17:3, a man is speaking who himself has already been identified earlier in the same book as the incarnation of the Old Testament figure known as YHWH God, specifically YHWH the Word. Speaking as an incarnate man, he is exemplifying the attitude men should have, which is one of the primary functions of his incarnation. In this role as a man, YHWH as the Word refers to the Father (the title that designates God’s role as Creator and supreme authority) as “the only true God.” With this statement he is speaking as a man exemplifying the attitude that all men must have with regard to the Creator. All men must regard the Creator as the only true God. Thus, this is not a denial of the Word’s own status as the supreme deity (which the same book already affirms) but an instance in which the Word is utilizing the designation “Father” to refer to YHWH’s transcendent status as Supreme Creator while at the same time the Word is speaking as a man and exemplifying how men should relate to and regard their Creator.

It should be stated here at the end that the defining components of the Trinity are upheld rather than undermined by this understanding of such titles as naming conventions. This view explains rather than denies the fact that there are three co-equal and co-eternal Persons of the Godhead of YHWH.

For example, being equal and co-eternal, all can be considered “Father” and “Creator” in the same right. Similarly, both the Word and the Spirit at times act as the angel or messenger to men, yet this fact does not make them one and the same person. Nor does it make them mere transient or created modes of a single Person. If these titles are understood as reflecting actual eternal and inherent differences in nature between the Persons of the Godhead, then the overlapping or sharing of the traits designated by the titles ultimately undermines the ability to sustain that the Persons are eternally distinct. In contrast, once these titles are recognized as being naming conventions and the proof for eternal distinctiveness of the Trinity is understood to rest on other evidences outlined throughout this study, then the co-equal and co-eternal status of three distinct Persons will not be mistakenly confused or discarded in light of the fact that all they share the attributes reflected in their respective titles.

In conclusion, this analysis seems to be the most evident, reasonable, and well-attested explanation for the titles of the Trinity, accounting for all the statements, all the overlap concerning activities and roles, and all the applications of those titles to the Persons of the Trinity in both Testaments. In short, this understanding of these titles as naming conventions is essential to a sound argument for and defense of the Trinity.