God in the Light - Back in High School we did an experiment in science class wherein we took three slide projectors (more common in those days) and shined three circles on the wall, one Red, one Blue, one Green. As we brought the three circles together on the wall (like the diagram at right), lo and behold, at the intersection the color was white. Somehow, in the one color (white) three colors were mysteriously present. I saw one but knew there were three. (By the way, don’t try it with paint, it only works with light). It was one but it was three. I saw it but it was still mysterious. In later years, I thought, “This is something of an image of the Trinity: One God yet three persons mysteriously present. One, yet three.”
Ex ore infantium – Not long ago, one of my nephews was showing his smarts when he suddenly declared to his father and my brother, “Hey Dad, you’re a father, and you’re a son, and you’re a brother.” Hmm….thought I, an image of the Trinity. I know, you may say it’s dangerously close to modalism. But it really isn’t modalism, for while my brother is a father he does not cease being a son. While he is my brother he does not cease to be a father. He does not switch modes, he is one at all times and yet three at all times. Not a perfect analogy, no analogy is perfect, otherwise it would not be an analogy. But here too is a glimpse of the Trinity.
Scripture too presents images and pictures of the Trinity. Interestingly enough most of the pictures I want to present are from the Old Testament. Now I want to say, as a disclaimer, that Scripture Scholars debate the meaning of the texts I am about to present, that’s what they get paid the big bucks to do. Let me be clear to say that I am reading these texts as a New Testament Christian and seeing in them a Doctrine that later became clear. I am not getting in a time machine and trying to understand them as a Jew from the 8th Century BC might have understood them. Why should I? That’s not what I am. Further that is not my job and what I get paid the big bucks to do. I am reading these texts as a Christian in the light of the New Testament, as I have a perfect right to do. You of course, the reader are free to decide if these texts really ARE images or hints of the Trinity from your perspective. Take them or leave them. Here they are:
1.Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness… (Gen 1:26) So God speaks to himself in the plural: “let us….our.” Some claim this is just an instance of the “Royal We” being used. Perhaps but I see an image of the Trinity. There is one (God said) but there is a plural (us, our). Right at the very beginning in Genesis there is already a hint that God is not all by himself but is in a communion of love.
2. Elohim?? In the quote above, the word used for God is Elohim. Now it is interesting that this word is in a plural form. From the view point of pure grammatical form Elohim means “Gods.” However, the Jewish people understood the sense of the word to be singular. Now this is a much debated point and you can read something more of it from a Jewish perspective here: Elohim as Plural yet Singular. My point here is not to try and understand it as a Jew from the 8th Century BC or a Jew today might understand it. Rather, what I observing is that it is interesting that one of the main words for God in the Old Testament is plural, yet singular, singular yet plural. It is one, it is plural. God is one, yet he is three. I say this as a Christian observing this about one of the main titles of God. I see an image of the Trinity.
3. And the LORD appeared to [Abram] by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the day. He lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, three men stood in front of him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them, and bowed himself to the earth, and said, “My Lord, if I have found favor in your sight, do not pass by your servant. Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree, while I fetch a morsel of bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on — since you have come to your servant.” So they said, “Do as you have said.” (Gen 18:1-5). Now this passage from a purely grammatical point of view is very difficult since we switch back and forth from singular references to plural. Note first that the Lord (singular) appeared to Abram. (In this case Yahweh (YHWH) is the name used for God). And yet what Abram sees is three men. Some have wanted to say, this is just God and two angels. But I see the Trinity being imaged or alluded to here. And yet when Abram address “them” he says, “My Lord” (singular). The “tortured” grammar continues as Abram asks that water be fetched so that he can “wash your feet (singular) and that the “LORD” (singular)can rest yourselves (plural). The same thing happens in the next sentence where Abram wants to fetch bread that you (singular) may refresh yourselves (plural) In the end the LORD (singular) gives answer but it is rendered: “So they said.” Plural, singular….. what is it? Both. God is one, God is three. For me, as a Christian, this is a picture of the Trinity. Since the reality of God cannot be reduced to words we have here a grammatically difficult passage. But I “see” what is going on. God is one and God is three, he is singular and yet is plural.
4. In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and his train filled the temple. 2 Above him stood the seraphim; each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory. (Is 6:1-3) God is Holy, Holy and yet again, Holy. Some say this is just a Jewish way of saying “very Holy” but as Christian I see more. I see a reference to each of the Three Persons. Perfect praise here requires three “holys”, why? Omni Trinum Perfectum (all things are perfect in threes) why? So, as a Christian I see the angels not just using the superlative but also praising each of the Three persons. God is thee (Holy, Holy, Holy) and God is one and so the text says, Holy “IS the Lord.”
5. In the New Testament there are obviously many references but let me just refer to three quickly. Jesus says, The Father and I are one (Jn 10:30). He says again, To have seen me is to have seen the Father (Jn. 14:9). And, have you ever noticed that in the baptismal formula Jesus uses is “bad” grammar? He says, Baptize them in the Name (not names as it grammatically “should” be) of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Matt 28:19). God is One (name) and God is three (Father, Son and Holy Spirit).
Feel free to add to this list of images for the Trinity, both biblical and natural.
This video is longish (22 Minutes) but the priests interviewed present a lot of good material.