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Judaism and Christianity: Some Of The Reasons Why A Jew Cannot Embrace Christianity

 

In the total absence of anything like proof of the dogma which teaches that the existence of three Persons is compatible with the Unity which they acknowledge, Christians have laid great stress on the construction of the word אלהים, which has a plural form, and which is used as a noun plural when it is not applied to God. The circumstance of its being then joined almost invariably to words in the singular number, and which would seem to indicate that the word was used to denote a single object, is evaded by the observation that although there are three persons there is but one God, therefore the verb, pronoun, &c., in the singular number are quite appropriate. The value of the evidence offered depends on the assumption that the word אלהים when applied to God, is to be understood in the plural number, and indicating the three persons. Now it is absolutely absurd to suppose that Moses, who so emphatically inculcates the Unity of God, should have given room, by the use of a word which was exclusively used as a noun plural, to imagine there was more than One God, or a union of three persons in that One.

We must, therefore, conclude that the word was used both in the singular and in the plural numbers, however strange the fact may appear to us. The word in its strict meaning, cannot be applied to any other object than the Deity, or to the false gods of idolaters, it is sometimes used to designate a magistrate, and figuratively applied to angels and men; yet there are few instances in Holy Writ where the word is used under circumstances which make it impossible to be understood in the plural number. The first occurs in Ex. 7:1,ראה נתתיך אלהים לפרעה. Now we cannot suppose the Almighty said to Moses, “See, I have made thee gods to Pharaoh,” yet he made use of a word which had also a plural meaning; but there cannot be any doubt that when applied to the Deity it always conveyed the meaning of Unity, and here it is applied in its singular signification to one man. When the Israelites, impatient of the protracted stay of Moses on Sinai, called on Aaron to make אלהים to conduct them, he made a molten calf, and presented it to them, saying, אלה אלהיך אשר העלוך using the plural number both in the pronouns and the verb, when speaking of a single object, but that object, he tells them, represents the deity who had brought them out of Egypt. There could not be any doubt as to number, though he spoke in the plural: the object before them was one. When the angel appeared to Manoah’s wife, she thought him איש האלהים though his appearance was awful. Afterwards, when he appeared to him and his wife, and ascended in the flame of the sacrifice, they imagined they had seen God; כי אלהים ראינו they had only seen one object, yet they made use of a noun which is some­times used to designate many, as אלהים אחרים. When Saul consulted the witch, on being asked what she had seen, she says, אלהים ראיתי and afterwards, describing what she has seen, she says, “an old man;” here is another instance where the word is applied to one object. It is not to be expected, from its signifying “Deity,” that the word could often be applied to any other object; but from the foregoing examples we see that it has been used as a noun singular from the time of Moses to the latter part of the reign of Saul, and at the time of Manoah we see that such was the practice among the common people. This fact being established, overturns the assumption that by the use of the word more than one object is meant; for there is no evidence to prove that the word being sometimes used in the singular is not to be so understood when it signifies God. An undoubted method of ascertaining the meaning of a word is found in the number of its adjuncts, whether verbs or pronouns; and in the present case they are almost always in the singular. Taking the first chapter of Genesis, for instance, and supposing the word אלהים had been obliterated; from the words ויקרא ויבדל וירא ברא &c., there could not exist a doubt that the subject spoken of was One, and not more; therefore the translators properly used the word God in the singular, and even when the verb is in the plural, they translate it in the singular, as Gen. 20:13.

It is remarkable that though the Christians lay great stress on the word being sometimes used in the plural number, they translate it in the Bible in the singular, “God.” When it refers to idols they say gods, except in the Decalogue, where אלהים אחרים is rendered “no other god.” It appears from the foregoing that the word being used to designate both numbers, it does not necessarily follow that in using it, Moses intended to indicate a plurality of persons leaving created the world; and as to his having used  it purposely to convey that meaning, cannot be supposed from the emphatic manner in which he inculcates the Unity of God. Of the plurality in that Unity he could not have any conception; that doctrine was not broached until the rise of Christianity; for although the Hindoos invented an immense number of gods, and the Egyptians even worshipped animals, neither nation entertained the absurd idea that in any of there them were three individuals, co-existing, but distinct. Christians, in challenging the word אלהים as a proof of the plurality of the object indicated, are careful not to translate it in the plural “Gods,” and justify the absurdity of describing more than one Being by a noun in the singular number, by saying that although  there are three persons who are respectively God, there is but One God, and that wherever that word occurs indicating the Deity the three persons must be understood,—the doctrine of a Trinity in Unity. There is not anything in the Bible or Gospels which can afford the least support to such a startling doctrine; for were we to admit the forced construction which Christians put on the word and other passages in our holy Books, the only conclusion which could be formed would be the existence of three or more gods, and that must be in defiance of the repeated and unequivocal revelation by God that there is no other god beside him. The word Trinity was not applied to the Being of God until the second century of the Christian era; the meaning of it was not fully explained until the Council. of Nice in the creed attributed to Athanasius.

“The Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God, yet there are not three Gods but one God,” was a doctrine accepted or condemned according as Athanasius or Arius was supported or persecuted by Constantine. This dogma, though destitute of any support from Revelation, was forced on the Christians by their imputing divinity to Jesus and the Holy Ghost, and the necessity of avoiding the reproach  of Polytheism, whilst they insisted on the existence of three persons in the Deity; but the doctrine is in itself contradictory, though it is endeavoured to evade the inconsistency by saying the word “God” does not indicate a person, but an Essence, of which the three persons partake in common. This explanation is in opposition to the Old Testament and the New, in both which the word signifies a Person or Ens, but absurd and contradictory as it is, it is the only resource they have against the imputation of Polytheism.

Now let us examine how far this dogma agrees with other articles of the Christian faith. It is asserted that the three Persons are equal, and each possesses all the attributes which we assign to our God, such as omnipresence, omnipotence, omniscience, &c., that they fill all space, are never separate, where one exists the two others are always to be found, they always act and will in harmony. From this definition it would appear that they believe the Deity to be one in person, but instinct with, three minds, although they confess the existence of three persons. But the one mode of existence is quite as incomprehensible as the other, and neither is supported by Revelation, which alone could afford mankind any information on the subject. As an isolated dogma, it perhaps might be received by those who were willing to believe that the terms Father, Son, and Holy Ghost were only three different names given to one and the same God, however inapplicable they may appear; but when this dogma is joined to the doctrine of an Incarnation and an Atonement, then the contradiction and inconsistency become manifest. It is held that the Son became incarnated in the womb of Mary, in the frame of her son Jesus. To this assertion there are insuperable objections, in the definition of the mode of existence of the Son as one of the persons of the Trinity. He is said to be omnipresent, therefore must necessarily be in the womb of Mary as well as in every other place, and he did not inhabit the frame of Jesus any more than any other man’s. As the three persons are inseparable, the Father and the Holy Ghost must equally have become incarnate. If they did not, then the Son was in one locality, and the Father and the Holy Ghost were not there, and the Son was not where they were: then neither of the three was omnipresent. Should we waive our objection to the Incarnation, and agree to the hypothesis of three omnipresent persons inhabiting the frame of Jesus: we must allow that the three persons were also incarnate in the bodies of all other creatures, and there was nothing  singular in what was termed the “Incarnation.” The word, however, must be restricted to its natural signification, “being enclosed in flesh,” or “assuming body,” for it is still more objectionable to assent to what is inculcated in the thirty-nine articles, that he took human nature in the womb of Mary, and thus the two natures, the godhead and the manhood, were united in one person, “never to he divided.” If the three Persons always act together, they must all have been united to the humanity of  Jesus; and the Christians, in the One God which they confess, must adore three divine and one human person. The same Second Article teaches that “the one Christ, very God and very man,” “truly suffered, and was crucified, dead and buried,” “to reconcile the Father to us.” Here it is distinctly stated that the Son did act separately and independently from the Father, which clearly demonstrates that the Father and the Son are two distinct Entes, and not one, the Son submitting to be sacrificed in order to reconcile the Father, and the Father being satisfied by the immolation of the Son, the one being active, and the other being passive, whilst the Holy Ghost does not take any part in the action. Now it cannot be pretended that there is any unity in three beings, one of whom is active, another passive, and the third neuter.

As to the object of the sacrifice, it represents the Father as morally or physically impotent, unwilling or unable to forgive mankind without the intervention of the Son, condescending to forgive mankind what is called original guilt and actual sin, not in consequence of their repentance and amendment, but in return for an imaginary sacrifice, which he deigned to accept as an expiation. According to the definition given of the nature of the Trinity, this supposition is rendered still more impious; because as the ransom which was to be paid for mankind, contemplated the suffering and death of not only a Divine Person, but of the whole Trinity, since as the “substance” of the three persons is not to be divided, the suffering and death of one of the persons must be partaken of by the others. The same arguments which have been adduced against the dogma of an Incarnation are equally applicable to the Atonement: the Three Persons always acting in harmony must all three have offered the sacrifice, and all three have accepted the expiation. They must also all three have arisen from death, though they could not die. They must all three have ascended to heaven, which they could never have quitted, being omnipresent. Still more surprising is the Fourth Article, which states that the Son, rising from death, “took again his body, with flesh, bones, and all things pertaining to the perfection of man’s nature, wherewith he ascended into heaven, and there sitteth until he return to judge all men at the last day.” The principal dogmas of Christianity, the Trinity in Unity, the Incarnation, and the Atonement, reciprocally overturn each other. The unity of the three Persons is incompatible with the Incarnation and the Atonement; the Incarnation of the Son is destructive of the Unity of the Three Persons as well as the Atonement.—I am not aware of any misstatement in what I have quoted from the Athanasian creed and the articles of religion; the farther explanation on the nature of the Trinity I have received in the course of  my correspondence with a learned minister of the Church of England. It has grieved me to see the pertinacity with which the London, the British, and the Scottish Societies labour for the conversion of our brethren to Christianity, and the facilities which they enjoy for the purpose in the control of a very large revenue, and a host of salaried agents, whose office it is to seek the poor, ignorant, and destitute among our brethren, and assail them with specious argument and forced constructions of passages in our holy books; perhaps it may be useful to those so dangerously situated to be shown the fallacy of the  proofs attempted to be drawn from the Bible, and to point out the inconsistency and contradiction of the principal dogmas which they offer for our acceptance. When I was young, I was strictly forbidden to read the New Testament, and I believe even now few among us except the literary part of the nation have given it the attention it deserves, and fewer still have inquired into the doctrine which is founded on those books. It must be desirable to furnish the young, and (on that point) ignorant, with the objections which might not immediately present themselves. It must startle a young Israelite to be told that the first verse of the Pentateuch gives evidence of a Trinity in the word אלהים; and should he reply  that though the form of the word is plural, the adjuncts; verb, pronouns, &c., are in the singular, to be told that there being Unity in the Trinity, it is not inconsistent that in treating of it both numbers should be used. Indeed the repeated and emphatic declaration of the Divine Unity by Moses and the other prophets is evaded by the doctrine that although there is but One God there are three Persons. This they advance, though without any foundation, leaving it to us to prove the negative. Should he do so in the Words of God, by the mouth of the Prophet, “There is no god with me:” they repeat One God and Three Persons. The only method of proceeding is to show, by their own definition and explanation, that the dogma is contradictory in itself, and is incompatible with the other tenets of Christianity.—These remarks are not made with any improper feeling towards our Christian brethren; but to show the grounds on which we dissent from them in the theology of our religious faiths; for in their morality there is no difference, the Christian code of morals being taken from the Jewish.

J. R. P.

Hackney, 29th March, 1847.