--Genesis 1:1, 2.
As we have already seen, based upon a misunderstanding of the Hebrew language and occasionally, even outright misrepresentation--trinitarians often advance the idea of plurality of persons involved in creation. This comes not only from the misuse of the Hebrew Word for God--Elohim which is found here in Genesis 1:1; but also from a failure to understand the nature of the Spirit of God and the removal of certain other passages from their context of scripture as a whole, which are then misinterpreted in isolation to support their views.
It is helpful, sometimes even necessary to remind ourselves that we must not permit occasional “difficult verses” to override the overall testimony of Scripture.
Typical of those who advance the argument for the presence of a trinity at creation is Wayne Grudem, research professor of Bible and Theology at Phoenix Seminary in Scottsdale, Arizona. Writing in his volume, Systematic Theology, he says:
“God the Father was the primary agent in initiating the act of creation. But the Son and Holy Spirit were also active. The Son as the one through whom creation came about. ‘All things were made through Him and without Him was not anything made that was made’ (John1:31). Paul says ‘There is one Lord, Jesus Christ through whom are all things and through whom we exist.’(Col.1:16). We read also that ‘the son is the one through whom God created the world’ (Heb1:2). These passages give a consistent picture of the son as the active agent carrying out the plans and directions of the Father.” (Grudem.1994; 266).
Regarding the alleged role of the Holy Spirit, Grudem has this to say: “The Holy Spirit was also at work in creation. He is generally pictured as completing, filling and giving life to God’s creation. In Genesis 1:2, ‘The Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters,’ indicating a preserving, sustaining, governing function” (p.267).
To be fair, a casual approach to scripture, coupled with a trinitarian theology will certainly seem to support these statements. Take for instance the words of the writer of Hebrews who tells us that God, “Hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son, whom He hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also He made the worlds.” (Heb. 1:2). Or, consider the words of the Apostle Paul, to the Church at Colossi: “For by Him were all things created, that are in Heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by Him and for Him.” (Col. 1:16).
Here again, on the surface, these are seemingly clear and straight forward assertions of the role of Jesus in creation. But we must not take these texts in isolation and forget that their context is the whole of scripture.
Highly placed in Jewish religious circles and self-described “Hebrew of Hebrews,” without question Paul’s background would have made him uncompromisingly monotheistic--a dedicated advocate of belief in the One True God as a single person. Paul’s Jewish heritage had placed the single-person God of Israel at the pinnacle of his belief system. His complete devotion to this one God of the Hebrew Bible remained, after his conversion to Christianity, the prime motivating force behind all his activity.
We have noted earlier that when Paul insists “that there is no God but One,” he also laments the fact that
“Howbeit then there is not in every man this knowledge”(I Co 8:4, 6). Paul made repeated and consistent references in his letters to the One True God, meaning the Father alone, even in contexts where both Father and Son are mentioned together. This is a reflection of Paul’s revelatory understanding of the distinction between the Deity and humanity of Christ.
We must be careful to avoid, at all costs, the tendency of reading our own twenty-first century interpretations into the writings and beliefs of the first century Church. Words must be permitted to mean what they meant in their original context. Paul’s thinking is inherently consistent. He expressed himself with complete clarity, when he spoke of the One True God. So we must guard against the danger of reading Paul as though he must have been familiar with the much later decisions of the multiple Church Councils. Suggestions of a plural Godhead would not appear for almost three hundred years after the ministry of Jesus. Paul’s letters should be read and understood in their own Hebrew context.
Too many authors and teachers make the mistake of reading later trinitarian tradition into first century monotheistic Hebrew understanding. As noted, this tendency is known as eisegesis, and is quite prevalent in popular Christian literature. Consequently, it is all too easy for those trained in a trinitarian model to fall into the trap of unconsciously, reading scripture through lenses tinted with the doctrines formulated in the second to fifth centuries.
Referring to the One God of Israel, Paul says: “God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that He is Lord of Heaven and Earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands” (Acts 17:24). Compare this with God’s declaration to the Prophet Isaiah: “I am the
LORD that maketh all things, that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that spreadeth abroad the Earth by myself” (Is 44:24). To interfere with or to ignore this fundamental aspect of Jewish monotheism and introduce another uncreated “person” as an active agent in the creation would have been totally contrary, even offensive to Paul’s belief in the basic tenets of Jewish theology, primarily its uncompromising unitary monotheism.
Much of trinitarian theology relies on “proofs” heavy on inference drawn from single verses taken out of context. Consider the passage in Colossians 1:16 for example. It has been supposed by many that this verse is evidence of an eternal preexistence of the Messiah and that Jesus created the world. This might seem to be confirmed by a casual reading of the King James Version which claims that “all things were made by Him.” Examination of the Greek however, reveals that this phrase is more properly translated “Through Him.” It is the Son, “Through whom also He (God) made the ages [not ‘worlds’].” (Heb. 1:2). Likewise, Paul believed that it was “in” and “through” Jesus that “all things have been created” (Col 1:16). He did not say or mean to imply that in fact they had been created “by Him.” This is an important, if not obvious distinction, which will become clear.
Paul’s firm belief in monotheism can be seen in his own words:
“We know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one…to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by
(through) whom are all things and we (through) Him”
------ I Co 8:4,6
As a Jew Paul understood that the Father alone is Jehovah God. As an expert on Hebrew scripture he was well acquainted with the facts of creation. As Nehemiah explains:
“Thou, even Thou art LORD (Jehovah) alone; Thou hast made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth, and all things that are therein, the seas and all that is therein; Thou preservest them all; and the host of heaven worshipeth Thee--Thou art the LORD, the God [Lit. the Jehovah-The Elohim] who didst choose Abraham…”
-------Neh 9:6, 7.
We might take note here of the relationship between the LORD, Jehovah who “preservest them all” and Jesus, who is the “brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person,” who “upholds all things by the word of His power.” It is the same Lord Jesus of whom it is said, “and again when He bringeth in the first begotten into the world, He saith, ‘and let all the angels (the host of heaven) worship Him” (Heb 1:3, 6). It is this same Jesus who said in Luke 4:8, “it is written, thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him alone shalt thou serve.”
So, how are we to understand, that according to Hebrews 1:2, God made the worlds by, or more properly, through the Son? Well, certainly, the Spirit of God who was in the Son was also the creator of the worlds. Scripture has much to say on the subject of creation and we must consider all of it in balance and context. Isaiah, for instance, tells us of the prayer of King Hezekiah, who prayed: “O LORD of Hosts, God of Israel, that dwelleth between the Cherubim, Thou art the God, even Thou alone, of all the kingdoms of the Earth: Thou hast made heaven and Earth.”(Isaiah 37:16).
According to Isaiah then, God was unaccompanied at creation. Further on he records:
“Thus saith the LORD, thy redeemer, and He that formed thee from the womb, I am the LORD that maketh all things, that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that spreadeth abroad the Earth by myself.” [Lit. Heb. “who was with me”]
Isaiah makes dozens of references to the oneness of God; references that only make sense if understood to mean, not a compound unity, but rather, an absolute numerical oneness. He has much to say as well, regarding the activities of this one God in creation.
“I am the LORD, and there is none else, there is no God beside me…there is none beside me. I am the LORD and there is none else. I form the light, and create darkness…I the LORD do all these things…for thus saith the LORD that created the heavens; God Himself that formed the earth and made it; He hath established it, He created it not in vain, He formed it to be inhabited. I am the LORD; and there is none else”
-------Is 45:5-7, 18
There is nothing here that allows for or even hints at a second or third person of the trinity present at creation; quite the opposite. We find here as well as in Hebrews, that the One True God, Jehovah, Elohim, was alone present at creation. But He established the ages of human history with Jesus at the very center of His purpose. It is this God who declares: “It is I who made the Earth, and created man upon it…there is none else, no other God.” (Is 45:12, 14).
How, on the basis of these, and the many similar verses, scattered throughout scripture, can the idea of a plurality of persons in creation be sustained? Even Jesus, in the Gospels, attributes the work of creation to the Father. He makes no claim of partnership or agency in the Genesis creation (Mk 10:6; Mt 6:30, 19:4; Lk12:28). Why does He seem to make it a point to expressly declare the Father to be the sole creator? If Jesus had indeed played a role as co-creator of the heavens and earth in Genesis, why does He not tell us this? Perhaps more significantly, if He is indeed the physical manifestation of the creator God, why not simply declare, “I did it”?
I believe that Jesus in fact, does just this, but only to those who have, “ears to hear and eyes to see.” He spoke to His disciples in Mark chapter four, in a conversation that bears directly on our subject. Following His presentation of the Parable of the Sower, Jesus responds to a question regarding the purpose and use of parables. Jesus answers:
“Unto you (true disciples) it is given to know the mystery of the Kingdom of God; but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables: that seeing, they may see and not perceive; and hearing, they may hear, and not understand”
Jesus told Philip in John 14: “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father” (Jn14:9). This statement has tremendous significance. As we have already seen, a study of the Hebrew Elohim lends no support to the persistent idea that “God” in Genesis 1:1 refers not only to the Father, but also the Son and Spirit as well. It is important to note that Isaiah, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, identifies Elohim (God), as Jehovah and the Hebrew scriptures plainly limit the name Jehovah to the Father alone (See Dt 32.6; Is 63:16, 64:8; Jer 31:9). Malachi has this to say: “Have we not all one Father? Hath not one God created us”? (Mal 2:10).
By the careful comparison of scripture with scripture, it quickly becomes clear that the idea of a trinity of persons present at creation is simply not supported by the Biblical evidence. What we find instead, is the declaration of the One True God, who alone is the creator, sustainer, and redeemer. This is the God “which alone spreadeth out the heavens and treadeth upon the waves of the sea” (Job 9:8). For those with eyes to see and ears to hear, do we have in this brief passage a clue to the identity of the Man from Galilee? Consider carefully, for we find in the Gospel of Matthew that “…in the fourth watch of the night, Jesus went out to them, walking on the sea…” (Mt 14:26).
Rather than trying to allege the presence of a trinity at work in creation, a more Biblical approach would be to take the scriptures themselves at face value. When seen in balance and context, all of the “problem passages” fall into place and our eyes are opened to a simple and marvelous truth:
“By the Word of the Lord were the Heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath [Heb. Ruach/spirit] of His mouth”
The One True God of the Bible, who is spirit--Jehovah-Elohim--the Father, that “calleth those things which be not as though they were” spoke the worlds into existence. It’s just that simple. Nothing in the Genesis account or anywhere else in scripture requires a trinitarian explanation or the presence of a supposed co-creator.