I’m working through Heiser’s The Jewish Trinity (other posts) Logos Mobile Ed course. Having laid a foundation that monotheism is compatible with divine plurality, Heiser now turns to argue for plurality within Yahweh Himself. Heiser claims that Judaism once believed in a Godhead, but rejected the doctrine as heretical late in the first century, in response to the claims of Christianity. For many (including myself) this no doubt comes as a shock.
The Old Testament
Before looking at Jewish teaching, however, Heiser begins in the Old Testament. We are used to arguments for the Trinity drawn from the NT, or anachronistic, though well meaning arguments (“God says ‘us’ in Gen 1:26, therefore… Trinity!) Heiser takes a different approach entirely.
It takes Heiser a few lectures to build the case for plurality within YHWH Himself but in this post I will simply present some of the texts he uses. If you want to hear his argumentation, you need to get the course for yourself!
- Implied plurality. Genesis 19:24; Amos 4:11; Genesis 21:11-12
- The Word of YHWH appears embodied. Gen 15:1; Jer 1:4,9; 1 Sam 3:10, 19
- The Name of YHWH appears embodied. Isaiah 30:27
- The Angel of the Lord has YHWH’s Name/presence. Exodus 23:20-21; Deuteronomy 4:37; Ex 33:14
- The Angel claims YHWH’s actions as his own. Judges 2:1-2; Genesis 31:11-13
- The Angel of the Lord is equated with YHWH. Exodus 3:2, 4; Genesis 48:15-16; Judges 6:11f
- The Son of Man in Daniel 7. The heavenly Son of Man is distinguished from YHWH but rides the clouds, an action only the LORD does (Psalm 104:3)
When put together, these texts build a compelling cumulative case. Note that Heiser is not arguing that these texts teach the Trinity, rather, they mysteriously imply plurality within the LORD Himself. This is not Christian prooftexting as Rabbis noticed on these texts and concepts before the time of Jesus.
Second Temple Judaism
Heiser then surveys literature from the Second Temple period and argues that Jews wrestled with identifying this figure in the OT, with varying answers. Heiser divides them into three categories:
- Exalted humans such as Adam, Enoch and Moses. 2 Enoch; Testament of Abraham; Prayer of Joseph; 1 Enoch; Ezekiel the Tragedian,
- Important angels like Michael and Ya’el (Yahoel). Testament of Dan; Joseph and Aseneth; Apocalypse of Abraham
- The Word/Logos. Assorted writings of Philo (Dreams; Agriculture; Confusion; Questions in Genesis)
Heiser argues that the common thread tying these texts together is their attempts to identify the “second Yahweh”. Therefore, streams of Judaism had concepts in place that would later naturally accommodate Jesus.
Check back soon for the next part of my walk through Heiser’s The Jewish Trinity Mobile Ed course. Read other parts in this review series.
Many thanks to Faithlife for providing a copy of The Jewish Trinity in exchange for review. Their generosity has not affected my opinion of the material.