The Triune Nature Of The God Of Israel
By David L. Cooper, Th.M., Ph.D., Litt.D.I. An Interesting Conversation
"Come now, and let us reason together, saith Jehovah" Isa. 1:18
One day as I was journeying from Los Angeles to Denver I had a most delightful interview with an elderly Jewish man. I was sitting in the day coach reading my Hebrew New Testament when this old man suddenly appeared at my side. "You cannot read that!" he declared.
Immediately I gave him a practical demonstration by reading a passage from the book in hand. With a shrug of the shoulders he asked, "Where did you learn that?"
"In the seminary and university."
"Well," he said, "you don't know what it means."
Again I read it and translated a verse for him.
"Hmm!" he commented, "and you are not a Yid!"
Moving over, I invited him to a seat beside me and introduced myself. My new acquaintance told me that his name was Baron. Then we settled ourselves for a chat.
"Can you read this, Mr. Baron?" I asked.
At once he read fluently the passage I indicated.
"Now will you tell me what it means?" He translated with difficulty, although he seemed to understand the substance of what he had read.
"Mr. Baron, are you acquainted with this book?" I inquired. He turned to the title page at the back of the Hebrew volume and read the words New Testament. He had never seen it.
Reaching for my grip, I pulled out my Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament) and said: "Mr. Baron, I want to ask you a question. What is the meaning of this word 'elohim?'"
"It means God."
"But," I said, "my teachers have told me that this word means 'gods'!"
"They do not know what they are talking about," he retorted emphatically.
"But 'elohim is plural number."
"You are wrong," my friend declared. "I went to the Yeshiva (rabbinical school) and I know 'elohim means God."
"What is the meaning of the word Baal, Mr. Baron?" I inquired.
"Master," was his ready reply.
"Many of them," he answered.
"What is the meaning of saraph?"
"One of those angels that has wings," he replied, uncertain of our English equivalent.
"Seraphim?" I questioned.
"Many of them," he answered.
"Then if Baalim and seraphim are plural, is not elohim the same?" I asked him. My friend began to look puzzled but still maintained that 'elohim in the opening verse of Genesis means God.
"Let us turn over to the Ten Commandments," I suggested. "Read the second command: 'Thou shalt have no other gods before me.' Now, Mr. Baron, what is the meaning of the third word?"
"Oh, that means 'gods'," he replied.
"One?" I questioned.
"No, many. It means all of those heathen gods."
Turning back to the first verse of Genesis I said, "You admit that 'elohim in the passage we have just seen means 'gods.'" He nodded and I continued: "Then what about the same word here at the beginning of the Torah (Pentateuch)?" For an answer my companion put his hand to his head in a quick gesture of complete surprise and exclaimed, "The rabbi did not tell us that!"
"Never mind about the rabbi," I rejoined. "If the word is plural in the one instance, it certainly must be in the other."
"That sounds right," he admitted. "But I wonder why they did not tell us."
"Mr. Baron, what is the meaning of Shema (the rabbinical name of the great confession of Deut. 6:4)?"
"Oh! you know Shema?" His eyes were round with surprise.
"A little about it," I said smiling. "I want to ask you the meaning of this fourth word 'elohenu. My instructors have taught me that it means our Gods."
"Well, they are wrong! It means one God."
"What is the meaning of the word 'abhothenu?" "Our fathers," he replied.
"Of cholayenu?" I asked.
"Then, Mr. Baron," I concluded, "if 'abbothenu means 'our fathers', cholayenu 'our sicknesses', pesha'enu 'our transgressions', and 'avonathenu 'our sins', surely 'elohenu' means 'our Gods'."
For answer my Jewish friend threw out both hands in a gesture of helpless perplexity. "But the rabbis--" he breathed.
"We are not interested just now in what they say or do not say," I told him. "You admit that this is right, do you not?" He nodded slowly and I continued, "One other question: What is the meaning of 'echad?" "One," he responded promptly.
"My teachers have told me that it means 'a unity,'" I said.
"Well, you were taught wrong!" he retorted warmly.
"Mr. Baron," I replied, "in the first part of Genesis we are told that there was evening and morning, day one. There was darkness and light, two different things, opposites. Yet put them together and they make one. A little farther on we are told (Gen. 2:24) that the man was to leave father and mother and cleave unto his wife and they should become one flesh. You are married, are you not? Was not your wife a person with an intellect, emotions, a will, a body before you got her? Were you not likewise a complete individual before you met her? Yet God says when you two were married that you became one, 'echad. God speaks similarly about Himself. The Shema really says: 'Hear, O Israel, Jehovah our Gods is Jehovah a unity'" (Deut. 6:4). I then took him to various passages of the Old Testament and concluded with the words, "The Scriptures teach that there is a triune God and that the second person of this triune Godhead came to earth and dwelt among us and gave His life for us."
During this exposition my friend's face was a study. By the time I had finished, there were tears in his eyes. "I never heard that before!" he said softly, and then continued, "Dr. Cooper, I graduated in Poland, but I have learned more about the Scriptures in this half-hour talk with you than in all my life before." Shaking his head sadly, he went on, for he understood that I had been talking about the Lord Jesus. "I am an old man now, and sick, and what can I do? If I had met you twenty years ago, I would have changed my religion."