Oneness, Twoness, or Threeness
In what is to follow keep in mind that our study period concerns itself with pre-325 a.d. Christianity. We want to consider how Jesus Christ came to fit into the early Jewish church worship of only one God. How could the early Jewish Christians hold claim to an absolute monotheism while worship could be directed to Jesus Christ in addition to God the Father?
This is Bible Study DU006 - Oneness, Twoness, or Threeness.
In an earlier study on our Hebraic-Foundations group, I drew attention to what can be considered the parent theology from which various theologies on the Godhead emerged, that is, Logos Christology. Logos theology is the theology of the Word becoming flesh. Logos Christology was very Hebraic in its beginnings. But there is more to be said.
A large part of our problem with the study of Christ is our failure to understand that the early Jewish Church already had the perfect godhead theology. Where we rush to qualify the divine nature of Christ, we've set aside the real issue of Christ, which has to do with divine identity. Identity was the hallmark of apostolic Christianity.
The earliest believers saw Jesus Christ as intrinsic to who God really is. It was later Christological developments that managed to acquire a very complicated picture of who Jesus really is. The terms co-equal, co-existent, and co-eternal would be lost on the early believers. They were schooled in the Scriptures and in the ancient sages. God is one! That's all they needed to know.
So, would we define the early Christians as Trinitarians, or as Arianists, or by what we know today as the Oneness theology? The truth is that none of these beliefs would accord entirely with the theology of the early Christians. However, the early believers could be more closely defined as binitarians, that is, in their belief of a 'two-in-One' theology. Yet they never lost their emphasis on an absolute monotheistic faith.
The earliest Christians were absolute monotheist. They believed that Jesus Christ originated in and came forth from the Father, that is, without becoming separate from Him in His spiritual being. Later Trinitarian theology had a take off from this early Jewish-Christian belief, in that a third party was to be added to the equation, the Holy Spirit.
It should be pointed out that the early Jewish believers always saw the Holy Spirit in connection with either the Father or the Son. In the new covenant the Holy Spirit was also seen as the Spirit of Christ, as the emanating power and presence of God.
And so in early binitarian theology, the Holy Spirit is generally seen as being identical to the Son, that is, as the Spirit of the Son. The Holy Spirit was also seen as the fullness of God, and/or as the power and activity of God at work. This pretty much accords with how the Jewish peoples themselves viewed the Holy Spirit.
It is important not to mistake what they believed with later binitarian developments. Later binitariasm promoted the idea of a godhood of all believers, in that God is a family, and because of our birth from God, we become like God, that is, we also become gods by virtue of grace. This is not what the early Christians ascribed to. (Mormonism teaches this. It has also been taught in some of the charismatic Word-of-Faith movement.)
Perhaps here is where I need to reemphasize a point. Many Christians today after studying the Scriptures for themselves tend to get a bit confused over the issue of the trinity or over the issue of oneness. That is to be expected since both those forms of theology were evolving theologies. Both are self-limiting and cannot be fully established in the Scriptures. (Debate on this point is fruitless. All either side can do is collect those Scriptures that best fit their position.)
Actually the rabbis began to accuse the Christian Jews of believing in two powers in heaven. (Not three.) They had become familiar with the book of Hebrews as well as with the gospels. The rabbis used Hebrews as a backdrop in their accusations against the Christian Jews, and especially where it says, "In these last days [the Father] has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world." (He 1:2) --- This statement by itself qualifies the earliest theology of the Jewish church ---
I also want to point out that a great many scholars today are setting aside the notion that the Trinitarian doctrine is exclusive to Christianity and that to be a Christian you must accept this form of theology. They are reaching back to the pre-Constantian beliefs of the early church. Of course the result is a less complicated theology that was held by the early church, but still not without its own mysteries concerning the Father and the Son.
Many like to say that the Trinitarian doctrine is the result of a final stage in the development of a seed theology. The problem with this is that neither the Trinitarian nor the oneness doctrines can said to be final stages of true theology. They are both departees from an already fully divine Christology. The early believers fully accepted Jesus Christ as Yahweh of the former testament, and yet they believed in a Father-Son view of God.
Paul himself brings this forth in reaffirming the sh'ma of Israel. He said, "Yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him." (1Co 8:6) Where Paul says one 'Lord' he is using the Yahweh expression.
It seems Paul is referencing the Father as Elohim and Jesus as Yahweh. This is not really the case. Jesus was looked at as the 'eikon' (divine image) of the invisible God, that is, we have both the invisible God who cannot be seen, and God who appears across history and in time. Or, as one early Christian writer said, "God brought forth from Himself a beginning."
The point being that to the early Jewish believers, Jesus did not become for them a second god or as another deity. Paul explained Christ as the hidden mystery of God. The apostle wrote, "To me, the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ, and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things." (Eph 3:8,9)
Note. I recommend a review of these Hebraic studies: HF139 - Jesus the Word of God; HF113 - What is God Really, Really Like; HF014 - Logos Christology: Our Common Heritage. Go to: http://www.christianchallenge.org/hebraic-foundations/index.html
Regardless of how difficult this may seem to us, the groundwork had already been laid for this mystery to be revealed. And how is it that an orthodox one-God, Jewish man could fall down before Jesus, and say, "My Lord and my God?" And how is it that everything Jesus did in His early walk reveals that He was intristic to the very identity of God's person? Jesus did God things.
And so we must concur with the Jewish author who said that Christianity is the most Jewish of all the non-Jewish faiths. I would go further to say that Biblical Christianity fills out the Jewish faith in that the God of the Hebrews came into the earth as a man to fulfill His own program of redemption. Did the early Jewish worship the Father and Son as one God? Absolutely. They did this with a true monotheistic faith and view.
John said it well enough; "Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son." (2Jn 9)
Do we still have a mystery? Sure we do. It is a mystery that is wondrous indeed. What we do know is that the origins of Jesus lies in God Himself. And when we worship Jesus we are not worshipping a second deity. We are worshipping the Father in the Son.
And so I return to the premise of this study --- A large part of our problem with the study of Christ is our failure to understand that the early Jewish Church already had the perfect godhead theology.
So the study does have a point. Where you see that God is one, believe that God is one. Where you see the Father and the Son, believe in the Father and the Son. And where you see the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, believe in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Just be a Biblical believer.
It really doesn't matter, oneness, twoness, or threeness. We know there is only one true God. We may simply view Him through various glasses while the story remains the same. God sent His Son into the world to be the Savior and Redeemer of mankind. Does this mean that God had a Son before time began? (Wow - Now that is a question. Think about it.)
Anyway, I just gave you something to think about. What think ye?
"Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission."
This study was originally shared on March 17, 2006. It was written by Pastor Buddy Martin, a former United Pentecostal Church minister, who founded and pastors Christian Challenge International. Writings are the copyright of Buddy Martin and reprinted on this site by permission.
Page added March 18, 2006
CONTACT / HOW DO I
OLD FEEDBACK /
UPC MEMBERS SPEAK
LOIS' WRITINGS /
August 23, 1997
Copyright © 1997-2013 by Lois E. Gibson
Contents of this web site and all original works are copyright - All rights reserved. The material on this site may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted or otherwise used, except with the prior written permission of the owner.
Shop at our Amazon store! This website is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.