Hope of Israel Ministries (Ecclesia of YEHOVAH):
The Godhead Was Not a Family Prior to 31 A.D.!
Herbert Armstrong, in his book The Incredible Human Potential, wrote, "...there is but ONE God -- but God is the family name, and there is more than one person in the ONE family." Is this true? Armstrong went on to say: "Originally there existed only these TWO Spiritual Personages, self-existent....God was supreme in authority, and the Word in perfect harmony under that authority." How did Armstrong come to this conclusion -- did he find it in the pages of the Bible? What about the so-called "holy Trinity"? Can we understand the TRUTH about these doctrines?
by HOIM Staff
Members of the Worldwide Church of God founded by Herbert Armstrong were unfortunately offered a very misleading teaching about who God is. "Yahweh" (occurs nearly 7,000 times), it was said, is a family consisting of two: the Father and Yeshua, the Son. Both, according to this teaching, are called "Yahweh."
This is a radical and alarming departure from the monotheism of the Apostles and of Yeshua the Messiah himself. The word Elohim, "God" (some 3,500 times in the OT), is never a collective noun. Lexicons never list Elohim as a collective noun. Moderns scholars of Hebrew could not imagine Elohim to mean a family of two (or more). Elohim, when used of the One God, is a "plural of majesty" and the One God is a single Person. This is shown by the singular verbs which accompany Elohim when it refers to the One God, and by thousands of singular personal pronouns, which tell us in no, uncertain terms that YEHOVAH God is a single Person.
It really is not difficult to understand the function of a singular personal pronoun. It describes a single person or thing. In the case of YEHOVAH God, He is a Person, never a thing. YEHOVAH is a "Who" and not a "What." The fact that He is called Father should be enough to establish this as fact. "Do we not all have one Father? Has not One God created us?" (Malachi 2:10).
It is, therefore, a serious confusion of the Bible's monotheistic teaching to tell people that Elohim is a collective noun, like "team" or "family," and that God consists of two eternal Members.
I even heard it said recently that "God" is like the United States. 'T'here are 50 states but only one United States. So there is one God, but consisting of two who are each God, in the one God-family. Or it is like this, said this exponent: you have in nature a helix which is really two helixes -- a double helix.
The problem is that the analogy is false. First show that Elohim is a collective noun like "United States." Where is "God" in the Bible analogous to the "double helix"?
Lexicons of Hebrew do not list Elohim as a collective noun. Its usage shows that it never means a combination of many in one. Elohim, of course, can mean "gods" when it refers to pagan deities. It can also refer to a single pagan god, like Milchom or Chemosh. As a royal title it can mean the single person, the Messiah (Psalms 45:6). Moses is also called Elohim (Exodus 7:1), but Moses was not plural, and certainly not a family. Elohim never once refers to a group of gods as one.
The "Armstrong" definition of God was simply an error. The error was compounded by the impossible notion that Yeshua was the YEHOVAH of the Old Testament. Such an idea is refuted easily: "The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob glorified His servant Jesus" (Acts 3:13). Thus the God of Abraham was not Yeshua the Messiah!
At a recent conference on the issue of "the One God" an audience member produced a piece of Hebrew text from Genesis 1. She maintained that in the Hebrew word et, the letters aleph and tav, refer to the name of God, as in "alpha and omega," "first and last."
In fact et is a Hebrew particle which indicates a direct object and is not translatable into English, which has no corresponding equivalent. Thus "in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" contains the word et twice, before "the heavens" and "the earth." It is quite untrue that this is a cryptic reference to God.
What is surprising is that people who are unable to read either Greek or Hebrew sometimes confidently propose "facts" about the meaning of those languages which defy the whole of scholarship by professional lexicographers. This is part of the mentality which afflicts some, that Herbert Armstrong or other group leaders are some sort of apostolic figures "dropped from heaven" and equipped to make authoritative statements in fields in which they have no formal training. They are so special, it seems, that they simply bypass the need to study and understand the languages of the Bible.
On a recent tape on the Godhead by a speaker for the Church of God International, it is encouraging to hear the teacher admit that the word logos in John 1:1 does not mean "spokesman." Worldwiders accepted for decades a wrong definition of logos (word) as a preexisting Yeshua, who was said to be YEHOVAH God's spokesman. In all of its hundreds of occurrences in the Old Testament logos or its Hebrew equivalent davar (word) never meant a person or spokesperson. The definition "spokesman" was simply an error and it is surprising how uncritically it was accepted. No lexicon offered any support for logos meaning spokesman.
Equally mistaken was the confident assertion repeated by thousands of Worldwiders and later splits from Worldwide that Elohim was the name of the two individual members of the "God-family," as well as the family name of the God-family. None of this could have been said by anyone with even moderate skills in Hebrew. Is there not a kind of arrogance in the supposition that we can bypass language facts, known to professional linguists and recorded in standard authorities?
In John 1:3 it is now being more widely recognized that "all things were made through him" (that is, a preexisting Son, Yeshua) is a biased translation. English Bibles before the KJV read "all things were made through IT [the logos]." That translation is valid. It depends on what one thinks logos means. Since it never means a person in the Old Testament background to John, why would we suddenly change its meaning in John 1:1? Why call logos a person when a word is not a person?
The idea that John wrote "In the beginning was the Son" cannot, however, be rescued by claiming that "the word was with God" means "the word was face to face with God," and thus that the Godhead must be a community of at least two. The Greek word pros translated "with" in John 1:1 does not have to mean "face to face." In Galatians 2:5 Paul did not say that the Gospel was "face to face" (pros) with the believers. In fact, as a scholar pointed out in a professional journal, John tends to use the word para when he speaks of one person with another. But in John 1:1 he did not use that preposition.
Several times in the Bible's "wisdom" literature the preposition "with" means "in one's heart" or "in one's intention or purpose." This fits well with John 1. The word was the self-expression or mind of YEHOVAH God -- not another Person!
Equally important is John's own commentary on John l: l in his first epistle. There John spoke five times of "what" the disciples had seen. It was a "what," not a "who," which existed "with God." John here explains what was "with God" (pros ton theon). He says that "the life" was with (pros) God and it would hardly be right to translate this as "face to face with God." John defines the word or life which was "with [pros] the Father." He tells us also what he meant by God in John 1:1. It was the Father.
Our observation of many years is that some people when faced with a crisis in their long-held understandings will opt for "the easy way out." Because friends and even family may be threatened by a correction of previously held doctrinal mistakes, some choose to "lie low" for the sake of peace. Or they conduct their studies in a way which will provide the "correct" answer. But what drives the studies in this case is not really language facts, but a desire to maintain the status quo. The plea that pros in John 1:1 has to mean face to face is an example of this tendency. It enables the exponent not to have to give up his error that God is a community of two Members. The thousands of pronouns describing God as a single Individual are simply ignored. And the predictions of the origin of the Messiah, given in the Old Testament and confirmed by Matthew and Luke, are left out of account. It makes little sense to argue for the God-family almost exclusively from John!
But John is no help to the "God is a family" school. In John 17:3 Yeshua, as a Jew following the biblical unitarian creed of Israel, defined God as "the only one who is truly God." In any other setting, no one has the slightest difficulty understanding that "the only one who is truly God" excludes any others from the Godhead!
Can language say more clearly that only the Father is God? Yeshua here made a Unitarian statement, precisely. He said that the Father is the only one who is truly God. That is Unitarianism, plainly and simply.
But for the persistent, whose real agenda is not to rock any boats or disturb the accepted status quo, there must be a way out! Paul is then twisted to support the "God is a community of two" concept. Paul addressed head-on the issue of God and true monotheism in a famous creedal declaration in I Corinthians 8:4-6. Here he discusses pagan systems with "many so-called gods and lords." By contrast, "to us Christians there is one God, the Father."
If that is not a clear statement, it is hard to see what could be said to teach that God is a single Person. But the "God-family" exponent finds an ingenious way out. Paul went on to speak of "one Lord Jesus Christ." So then, if Yeshua is one Lord he must be God! And this despite Paul's declaration in the same passage that "There is no God except one...there is one God, the Father."
Yeshua is indeed lord in the New Testament. But he is not the LORD God.
Not only this. Luke defines the term lord as appropriate for Yeshua the Messiah. He tells us what it means to call Yeshua "lord." He calls him "the lord Messiah." This title is entirely right for Yeshua who is the second "lord" in Psalm 110:1, which is so often quoted in the New Testament. That second "lord" in Psalm 110:1 is translated from the Hebrew word adoni, a form which in all of its 195 occurrences designates a "lord" who is not God, but a human superior (occasionally an angel). Strong's Concordance will not show you this important distinction. It should but it does not.
So then, in I Corinthians 8:4-6, when Paul calls Yeshua the "one lord Jesus Messiah," he merely confirms what is obvious from the rest of the New Testament: Yeshua is the lord Messiah. He called him just that. "One Lord Christ, Jesus" or "one Lord Jesus Christ." For Paul Yeshua is lord because he is the Messiah. Yeshua had said that he would found his church on the understanding that he, Yeshua, was the Messiah. And Yeshua never said "I am God."
"There is no God but the one God, the Father," Paul says. "There is one God and one mediator between God and man, THE MAN Messiah Jesus," he later wrote (I Timothy 2:5). In these biblical monotheistic statements he was only echoing the massive testimony to biblical monotheism taught by the "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord." (Does anyone not understand that "one YEHOVAH" here means one Person and not one family?!).
Yeshua affirmed this unitarian creed of Israel in a very important interchange with a Jewish scribe. Mark 12:28-34 should forever settle the Christian view of who God is. Jews were of course unitarians and Yeshua did not disagree with them about who God is. Yeshua's agreement with the scribe simply confirms the creedal statement of Yeshua that the Father is "the only one who is truly God" (John 17:3).
A paralyzing blow was struck by misleading leaders who persistently claimed that YEHOVAH God is really a community of two or three. Not only are ordinary Bible readers misled. A billion Muslims and millions of Jews are prevented from hearing that Yeshua the Messiah was the greatest exponent of the unitary monotheism of the Bible, that YEHOVAH God is a single Person (the word "one" in Hebrew and English means "one single").
The completely mistaken view that "one," echad, means more than one would lead to a breakdown of communication. It's rather like saying that a nickel is really a dime. Impossible! One means one and never more than one. "One flesh" does not mean "two fleshes," and "one family" does not mean "two families." The Hebrew numeral "one" (as in "one, two, three...") works exactly like the English word "one." The word "one" in "one God family" still means "one single."
A top British scholar, John Blanchard, wrote a book with an interesting title, Does God Believe in Atheists? He was arguing for the existence of God from the marvels of creation. On page 450 he took time to refer to the Trinity. He said: "The Trinity may seem to contradict the bedrock monotheistic statement, 'The Lord our God, the Lord is one,' but it does exactly the opposite, as the word 'one' used to express this fundamental doctrine is the Hebrew echad, which means not one in isolation but one in unity. The word stresses unity while recognizing diversity within that oneness."
I challenged this amazing statement. A few weeks later I received this gracious reply: "Following our recent correspondence, I have taken theological and academic advice and it seems clear that my comments on the word echad are inaccurate. I am very grateful to you for pointing this out and assure you that in future printings of the book the paragraph concerned will be replaced by one that uses other OT arguments for the plurality of Yahweh's being."
We can be sure that arguments based on the Hebrew word for "one" will not reappear. It is time to bury an unfounded claim about the meaning of the simple word "one." A return to the simplicity of the biblical creed is long overdue. It is really the stranglehold of the cult leader (even long after he is dead) that prevents this. And pressures sometimes of job, family and other agendas. Or simply the reluctance to admit that one has been scammed on the most basic of all doctrines.
What this whole theory of a plural God does is to make it impossible for YEHOVAH God to magnify the work of his chosen MAN. It constantly tries to get rid of the MAN MESSIAH and substitute a second YEHOVAH. This produces a rival to YEHOVAH, and erases the HUMAN AGENT of YEHOVAH God, the MAN Yeshua. The whole point of the Messiah is that he is a member of the human race. The verses which directly address the relationship between YEHOVAH God and Son of God and Messiah must solve the problem (John 17:3; I Corinthians 8:4-6; I Timothy 2:5).
Where in the Bible is President Obama addressed? Where in the Bible does Obama speak? Nowhere. Where in the Bible does the double YEHOVAH speak? Where is He addressed? The investigator has 7,000 YEHOVAH words, 3,500 occurrences of Elohim and 1300 occurrences of the Greek word for God, theos, to choose from to produce a sample. Can he find one? Do any of these mean "God in two Persons"? On 12,000 occasions the Bible spoke of God and never meant by this "God in two Persons."
If this evidence, plus repeated singular pronouns, cannot restrict YEHOVAH God to one Person, what evidence could? The whole fabric of intelligent discourse breaks down. And this is really what has happened in the current claims that God is a family of two.
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