For those who may not know what the trinity is, I do recommend you read my other article on it; but to give a brief answer, it is the Christian doctrine which says that there is one God who has eternally existed as three distinct persons. While it may sound confusing at first, it is not illogical or impossible by any means, and I do my best to cover that issue in the article linked to above.
While the word trinity is not used anywhere in scripture, it is a doctrine that the church arrived at systematically through proper study of the Bible as a whole, not just one particular place.
Hints of the Trinity in the Old Testament
Within the pages of the Old Testament, what we find is a package of verses which very strongly imply that there is a plurality of persons within the Godhead, so let’s look at those first.
- Gen 1:26 – Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after ourlikeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
- It’s important to note that angels, as created beings, do not possess the power to create from nothing. Additionally, we are not made in the image of angels, but of God.
- Gen 3:22 - Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever”
- Gen 11:7 – ” Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.”
- Gen 19:24 - Then the LORD rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the LORD out of heaven.
- Psa 45:6-7 - Your throne, O God, is forever and ever. The scepter of your kingdom is a scepter of uprightness; you have loved righteousness and hated wickedness. Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions;
- Isa 6:8 - And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.”
- Isa 48:16 – “Draw near to me, hear this: from the beginning I have not spoken in secret, from the time it came to be I have been there.” And now the Lord God has sent me, and his Spirit.
- Amos 4:10-11 – “I sent among you a pestilence after the manner of Egypt; I killed your young men with the sword, and carried away your horses, and I made the stench of your camp go up into your nostrils; yet you did not return to me,” declares the LORD. “I overthrew some of you, as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and you were as a brand plucked out of the burning; yet you did not return to me,” declares the LORD.
Understanding The Trinity in The Old Testament
From the above verses we definitely see a particular plurality in the creator of the universe, but from reading these verses we do not necessarily arrive at the three persons of the trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). However there are numerous references to the three, within different parts of the Old Testament that lead us that direction.
- Father – We see the first person of the trinity in Isa 64:8 when God, the Father, referred to as the maker (Jehovah) and that we are the clay in his hands (Which echoes Gen 2:7 where we read that we were made from the dust of the ground). He is our redeemer from of old (Isa 63:16), and as God, he exists from everlasting to everlasting (Ps 90:2), was present at creation (Gen 2:4), cannot be contained in heaven or on earth (1 Kgs 8:27), searches our heart and tests our mind (Jer 17:10). This is God the Father.
- Son – We see the second person of the trinity by starting in John 4:24, when Jesus says that God is spirit and in Col 1:15 we read that Jesus is the image of the invisible God. Therefore, it is the Son (The Pre-Incarnate Christ) who walked in the garden of Eden (Gen 3:8), appeared to Abram in Gen 12:7-9; 18:1-33 and 22:11-18 (See also Ex 3:2-4), Jacob in Gen 32:24-29 (See also Hos 12:3-4), Moses in Ex 3:2-4:17 and ate with him and his companions in Ex 24:9-11. Additionally it was Jesus who was was in the fiery furnace with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in Dan 3:23-25. Let us also not forget the numerous prophecies that tell of a coming king (Ps 2:6), born of a virgin (Isa 7:14), that would be declared God (Ps 110:11; Pro 2:7; 30:4; Isa 9:6) be hated (Isa 53:3) and murdered as an innocent man (Zech 12:10) and yet take away the sins of the world (Isa 53:5, 12). This is God the Son.
- Holy Spirit – We see the third person of the trinity in Gen 1:2 where the Spirit of God was present at creation and that he instructed the Israelites during their forty years in the wilderness (Neh 9:20), as well as warned them of coming calamity as a result of their disobedience (Neh 9:30). The Holy Spirit is present everywhere (Ps 139:7), knows everything (Isa 40:13) and can be angered (Isa 63:10). It is written that he came upon Othniel (Jdg 3:9-10), Gideon (Jdg 6:34), Jephthah (Jdg 11:29), Samson (Jdg 14:6), Saul (1Sa 11:6), Saul’s messengers (1Sa 19:10), Azariah (2Ch 15:1), Zechariah (2Ch 20:14), Isaiah (Isa 61:1), and both upon and into Ezekiel (Eze 11:5; 2:2). This is God the Holy Spirit.
From what has been written here on the trinity, by looking at just the Old Testament, we see that in God there is a plurality, even though he is one (Deut 6:4). From doing further digging, we also see that the persons who make up this plurality are the clearly defined from the Old Testament alone. To again restate what the doctrine of the Trinity is, it is the belief that there is one God who has eternally existed as three distinct persons, and I believe this article has established that case strongly by only puling from Old Testament scriptures.