I have heard Christian missionaries claim that Jesus deliberately screened or veiled his divine nature on earth, so when he is asked a question by one of his disciples about the time of the end he can honestly answer, that no man, not even the Son knows the time of the end, only the Father. Then, when he says elsewhere that he and the Father are One, he is speaking about his ontological identity with the Father. Please comment on this and post it on your web site.
If the one God of the universe, Creator of the heavens and the earth, wanted to convey to His people that He alone was God and there was no other who shared this unique distinction with Him, what words would He use so that there would be no possibility for error? What phrase could He have selected so that there would be no chance of misunderstanding? If you or I wanted to describe the unique oneness of God in a way that could not be misinterpreted, how would we express this? Would we not have used the words that Moses reported God to have said in Deuteronomy 32:39,
“See now that I myself am He! There is no god besides Me . . .”
As a result of this and many other inspiring affirmations throughout the Jewish Scriptures, (Click here for a list of texts.) faithful Jews to this day will only worship the One life-giving God of Israel – alone.
No prophet in Tanach ever remained silent on this foundational teaching. As if with one voice, they pleaded with their often-wayward nation never to compromise their faith for anything other than the unwavering monotheism that they tirelessly preached. Over and over again, the Hebrew Bible declared with deliberate clarity in its most celebrated creeds that the Almighty alone is God, and there is no other. Nothing could ever be “screened” or “veiled” because the very survival of the Jewish people depended on it. The Torah intimately connects the faith in one indivisible God with the national experience of the Jewish people throughout their long history. Dreadful suffering was the consequence for any defection from the uncompromising monotheism that the Almighty demanded of His people.
Throughout the Jewish Scriptures, God never “screened or veiled his divine nature.” In fact, Isaiah unequivocally proclaimed that the Almighty did not reveal Himself in darkness or in a hidden or veiled fashion. The prophet, speaking in the Almighty’s name, declares that,
I have not spoken in secret, from somewhere in a land of darkness; I have not said to Jacob’s descendants, “Seek Me in vain.” I, the Lord, speak the truth; I declare what is right.
Although the belief in the unity of God is taught and declared on virtually every page of the Jewish Scriptures, the doctrine of the Trinity is never mentioned anywhere throughout the entire corpus of the Hebrew Bible. Moreover, this doctrine is not to be found anywhere in the New Testament either because primitive Christianity, in its earliest stages, was still monotheistic. The authors of the New Testament were completely unaware that the Church they had fashioned would eventually embrace a pagan deification of a triune deity. Although the worship of a three-part godhead was well known and fervently venerated throughout the Roman Empire and beyond in religious systems such as Hinduism and Mithraism, it was quite distant from the Judaism from which Christianity emerged. However, when the Greek and Roman mind began to dominate the Church, it created a theological disaster from which Christendom has never recovered. By the end of the fourth century, the doctrine of the Trinity was firmly in place as a central tenet of the Church, and strict monotheism was formally rejected by Vatican councils in Nicea and Constantinople.1
When Christendom adopted a triune godhead from neighboring triune religious systems, it spawned a serious conundrum for post-Nicene Christian apologists. How would they harmonize this new veneration of Jesus as a being who is of the same substance as the Father with a New Testament that portrays Jesus as a separate entity, subordinate to the Father, and created by God? How would they now integrate the teaching of the Trinity with a New Testament that recognized the Father alone as God? In essence, how would Christian apologists merge a first century Christian Bible, which was monotheistic, with a fourth century Church which was not?
This task was particularly difficult because throughout the Gospels and Paul’s letters Jesus never claims to be God. On the contrary, the New Testament makes it clear that he is not God, but rather an agent of God, entirely subordinate to the Father. For example, in John 14:28, the author of the fourth Gospel has Jesus declare,
“I go unto the Father, for my Father is greater than I.”
The example you mentioned illustrates this particularly well. In the Book of Mark, Jesus is asked by four of his disciples when the Tribulation period will occur. Jesus responds,
But of that day and that hour knows no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the son, but the Father
The problems this verse creates for Trinitarians are staggering. If Jesus were coequal with the Father, how could the Father have information that Jesus lacked? That is to say, if Jesus were God manifested in the flesh, as missionaries contend, how can God not know something? If somehow the second Person of the godhead didn’t know, how did the first Person find out? Moreover, if, as some Trinitarians persist, the son was limited by his human nature, why didn’t the Holy Spirit know?
Christians cannot simply explain away this verse by insisting that it was Jesus’ human or humble nature that did not know. This is because the doctrine of the Trinity does not hold that Jesus was half God and half man. Rather, Jesus was one hundred percent God and one hundred percent man. His substance as God was not diminished because of his human nature. As the ecclesiastical Athanasian Creed2 explicitly states:
The divinity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is one, their glory equal, their majesty coeternal. What quality the Father has, the Son has, and the Holy Spirit has.
Few statements defining the nature of the triune godhead have so plainly spelled out the nature of the doctrine of the Trinity as does this durable fourth century creed.
Some missionaries will argue, as you point out, that Jesus’ statement in John 10:30, “I and my Father are one,” demonstrates that Jesus considered himself God. The Greek word ἐν (hen), meaning “one,” however, does not imply being a part of the same substance. We see this clearly in John 17:11 and 17:21-22 where Jesus prays to God that the disciples may be one (ἐν) as are Jesus and God. Clearly, Jesus is requesting that the disciples be of one unified purpose, not of the same substance or part of the Trinity.
Moreover, John 10:30-34 is particularly revealing. The fourth Gospel describes how when the Jews heard Jesus proclaim, “I and my Father are one,” they immediately wanted to stone him. When Jesus asks them why they wanted to kill him, the Jews responded because “you claim to be God.” Upon hearing this, Jesus asked, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are gods’?” This response is one of the most important statements in the Book of John, and should at least give Trinitarians pause.
The verse is found in Psalm 82:6 where the Bible refers to judges who teach God’s divine law as gods. This title was bestowed on them because they were teachers of the Almighty’s divine Law and sacred Oracles, not because they were actually God in any way. This usage is quite common in the Jewish Scriptures. For example, in Exodus 7:1 Moses is called a god because he was God’s representative to Pharaoh. In essence, Jesus’ reply is inconsistent the proposal that missionaries are seeking to advance. Jesus, as depicted by John, is explaining that his identification with God is comparable to that of a Jewish judge.
The fact remains that no author in the New Testament ever advanced the doctrine of the Trinity. Many years passed from the time the last Gospel was published for the Church to promote this alien creed.
Rabbi Tovia Singer
The Council of Nicea and Constantinople were convened in 325 and 381 C.E., respectively. At the Council of Nicea the nature of Jesus was determined to be of the same substance (Gk. ομοούσιος – homousios) as the Father, and at the Council of Constantinople this doctrine was ratified and the doctrine of the Trinity was expressly declared to be a foundational Church teaching. (See Question and Answer entitled, Isaiah 53: Did Jesus have long life?) ↩
While the authorship of the concise Athanasian Creed is widely speculated, it is a Post-Nicene, Church-sanctioned, litergacle declaration of the doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation. ↩