Ok, so the Trinitarian/Unitarian debate (Trinitarian Versus Unitarian Debate at “Parchment and Pen”) has re-kindled my interest in this topic, so I decided to blow the dust off of the little I’d written so far in response to Jason and try to finish what I’d started! While it’s not as thorough as I’d like, I didn’t want to keep this thread in suspended animation for too much longer. So here’s my attempt at a “rebuttal.”
Except the Shema neither says nor implies that “YHWH is numerically one YHWH of three Persons.” It says “YHWH is one,” period - which I would suggest emphasizes in the strongest language possible the utter oneness of God in every conceivable sense, and, if so, would necessarily exclude any idea of YHWH being numerically more than one (e.g., having numerically more than one will, or more than one center of consciousness).
(As an aside, there are some instances in which AeCHaD may convey the stronger idea of “only one” or “just one” - e.g., Num. 10:4; Deut 17:6; Josh. 17:14; Esth. 4:11; Isa. 51:2. But since this is not necessary to my argument, I simply mention it for your consideration)
First (and as I’m sure you’d agree), this is figurative language; husband and wife do not literally become “one flesh.” This is a powerful image that speaks of the intimate bond between husband and wife. Second, AeCHaD here still means “numerically one” - not numerically more than one. The “one flesh” that husband and wife become in Gen 2:24 is indeed “one flesh” (not “one fleshes”). AeCHaD still means “numerically one.” But third (and here’s what I really want to stress) the key factor in this and other similar passages is that two or more “parts” are mentioned, such that the reader can immediately discern that there is some kind of “coming together” of the people or things mentioned. AeCHaD, in fact, must maintain its meaning of “numerically one” for these expressions to convey their intended sense. But it is this factor that is conspicuously absent from Deut. 6:4! The Shema does not say, “YHWH our God, though three, is yet one.” There is no hint of anything numerically more than one “coming together” here. No composite “parts” (or persons) that together make “one.” The verse says that YHWH our God is unequivocally “one.”
Moreover (and I may be bringing this up again later), it is a common Hebrew idiom found in the OT (and in the NT) to repeat a word (e.g., a person’s name or title) for emphasis instead of using a pronoun. While the idiom can be used with impersonal things as well (and I’d be glad to provide examples if you want), here are just a few examples where persons are in view: Gen 4:23-24; 16:16; 18:17-19; Ex 34:35; 1 Kings 2:19; 10:13; 12:21; Esther 8:8; Ezekiel 11:24 (I’ve included this verse since you believe the Spirit of God is a divine person ); Dan 3:2-3; 9:17; Ex 16:6-7; 1 Sam 3:21; 12:7; 2 Chron 7:2. Now, it’s evident that Deut. 6:4 is a clear example of this idiomatic way of speaking; the divine name YHWH is repeated for emphasis instead of the use of a pronoun. But consider this: if we were to replace the second use of the name YHWH with an appropriate pronoun, what would we use? Well, based on the kind of pronouns consistently used in reference to YHWH throughout the OT, it’s kind of a no-brainer: we would use the singular personal pronoun “he” (not “they”). So when we replace the second, emphatic use of the divine name with an appropriate pronoun, Deut 6:4 would thus read, “Hear, O Israel: YHWH our God, HE is one.” “He” is the personal pronoun that is implied here.
Thus, I think the ONLY way the Shema could not be the serious blow to trinitarian doctrine that I believe it is, is if the plural pronoun “they” were an appropriate substitute to replace (i.e., implicitly) the second emphatic use of YHWH in Deut 6:4. But it would not at all be appropriate. Throughout the OT, YHWH Elohim is an “I,” a “He,” a “Him” a “Me,” a “Myself,” etc. He is referred to, and refers to himself, as a singular person. Here’s a prime example of YHWH himself speaking (notice all the singular pronouns): “How can I give you up Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel? How can I treat you like Admah? How can I make you like Zeboiim? My heart is changed within Me; all My compassion is aroused. I will not carry out My fierce anger, nor will I turn and devastate Ephraim. For I am God, and not man (!) – the Holy One among you. I will not come in wrath” (Hos. 11:8-9). And here’s an example of people referring to YHWH: “And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, ‘YHWH, He is God; YHWH, He is God’” (1King 18:39). Is there one example in the OT where we are told, “YHWH, they are God”? No, there’s not. And that’s why I think the Shema not only doesn’t support trinitarian doctrine, but stands in opposition to it.
(Interestingly, there are five instances where AeCHaD is used in the plural (AeCHaDiM): Gen. 11:1; 27:44, 29:20; Ezek. 37:17; and Dan. 11:20. AeCHaDiM is usually translated “few,” but “one” may be the best translation in Gen. 11:1 and Ezek. 37:17. In those passages, AeCHaDiM is used with plural nouns, and perhaps here does have the sense of “compound one!”)
Again, AeCHaD here still means “numerically one” - not numerically more than one. The evening and morning are dual “components” of numerically one day.
It would mean we are all singularly and numerically one in whatever sense is meant - but obviously it would be in a figurative sense. That is, it would mean “one” in the sense of sharing a common emotional or religious bond, sharing a common purpose, or sharing the same character (etc.). To use a NT example, when Jesus says “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30), the word “one” literally means “numerically one.” But it’s being used in a figurative sense, and carries the same figurative meaning as in John 17:21-23 when believers are in view (i.e., it is a “oneness” in will and purpose). Another example is when the apostle Paul speaks of he and Apollos as being “one” (1 Corinthians 3:8). That is, it means they share a common purpose. But again, literally it still means “numerically one.” AeCHaD in the OT has a fixed meaning no matter what it refers to, and that meaning is “numerically one.” But I think we’re in fundamental agreement on this; again, the main issue is, “Does the name YHWH denote numerically more than one person?” As it turns out, it doesn’t (at least, if singular personal pronouns mean anything at all). All of the singular personal pronouns used in reference to YHWH compel us to understand the Shema to mean, “YHWH our God, HE is one.” Not “they are one.”
Again, AeCHaD denotes numerical oneness and can never mean (as you said at one point) “numerically more than one.” It is the noun that is modified by AeCHad that carries any meaning of plurality or “corporality.” Any sense of “more than one” or plurality must be derived from the noun that AeCHaD is modifying - the meaning of AeCHaD itself doesn’t change. And in the case where a noun isn’t explicitly mentioned, it is either implied, or “one” is being used figuratively to mean something like “sharing a common purpose.” Either way, the literal meaning of AeCHaD is numerically one.
I agree that AeCHaD can modify that which is collective or compound, but in order for it to be understood to be modifying that which is collective or compound, it must first be understood that whatever it’s modifying IS collective or compound. AeCHaD itself tells us nothing about whether or not something is collective or compound; and since all we are told in the Shema is simply that “YHWH our Elohim, YHWH (“he”!) is one” - with nothing further implied - then it seems utterly counter-intuitive (even contrary to what’s being said) to see the declaration as in any way suggesting or implying or “hinting” that YHWH is in any sense numerically more than one.
I realize you added “with YHWH’s sanction” but still, I find the word “pretending” to be rather inappropriate, as it would suggest deceit and/or insincerity. When YHWH invested an angelic being with the authority to act and speak on his behalf (i.e., when YHWH’s “name” was “in him” - Ex 23:20-23) then as long as the angel had that authority, he spoke the very words of YHWH himself. Thus, when a representative agent spoke on behalf of YHWH, it was as if YHWH himself were personally present and speaking. The agent speaking is speaking the very words of YHWH, so however YHWH would speak and refer to himself is how his representative agent would speak. A representative agent functioned as one’s mouthpiece. Again, according to the Jewish understanding of agency, the agent was regarded as the person himself. In The Encyclopedia of the Jewish Religion under “agent” (Shaliah) we read: “The main point of the Jewish law of agency is expressed in the dictum, ‘a person’s agent is regarded as the person himself’ (Ned. 72b; Kidd. 41b). Therefore any act committed by a duly appointed agent is regarded as having been committed by the principal, who therefore bears full responsibility for it with consequent complete absence of liability on the part of the agent.”
I will have more to say in regards to representative agency later, but yes, the multitude of singular personal pronouns used either by YHWH himself OR his authorized representative agents do (I think) forcibly tip the scales in favour of Unitarianism.
Well seeing as God is mentioned more than any other single personal entity in the Bible, of course it would be “pretty rare!” And regardless of one’s view of how many persons God is, why would we even expect it to be used frequently and as a rule for non-God personal entities? The whole point of the idiom is to intensify and emphasize a word, so of course the Jews would use the idiom when referring to the Creator of the universe as a rule instead of when referring to non-God personal entities. But the fact remains that it is used “outside of God,” and your conceding this is all my argument needs.
Now, the common characteristic of intensive plurals is that they have the plural suffix while denoting singular objects, and as a result they receive singular adjectives and verbs. Now, is this the case that we find with Elohim? Yep, overwhelmingly (and for ADNY too!). The word Elohim appears in its plural form over 2,000 times throughout the Hebrew Scriptures and in virtually every instance it has singular verbs and singular adjectives - which is exactly what we would expect if this were an example of an intensive plural and not a numerical plural. In Hebrew, a numerically plural noun has three characteristics: 1. It receives a plural suffix. 2. It receives a plural verb. 3. It receives a plural adjective. Whenever YHWH Elohim is in view (as opposed to any non-God entities), we have only 1 of these 3 characteristics met, which again is proof-positive that Elohim, as a title for YHWH, is to be understood as an intensive plural and not in any way as a numerical plural.
I take it this is your way of agreeing that, “Yeah, basically the plural form of ‘lord’ is being used to refer to a human being here.”
I do think they could have been using the plural intensive title in a flippant and non-respectful way. But even if they were, it is likely they were still referring to Joseph according to the actual status he was previously perceived as holding (i.e., when they were “worshiping” at his feet! - Gen 42:6). So while I have no problem with the idea that Joseph’s brothers were not using the title respectfully, I think it’s extremely unlikely that they were (sarcastically) ascribing “divine status” to him. Even if Joseph’s brothers were speaking of Joseph as the “lord of the land” in a sarcastic and exaggerated way by using the intensive plural, it is by no means the case that, in doing so, they were ascribing a pseudo-divine status to him (instead, it would be more like a person saying to their spouse under their breath, “Whatever you say, your highness…” - not that I’ve ever done that, of course! ). In either case, I see no reason to believe that the title “lord” was being intensified by his brothers because it had anything inherently to do with Deity (much less anything to do with a supposed “plurality of persons” in the God!), but because intensive plurals (when persons are in view) conveyed the idea of reverence and respect (or the opposite, if used disingenuously).
Now, you appear to be using “intensive (or “emphatic”) plural” and “divine plural” interchangeably. But these expressions are not interchangeable; the former is a recognized Hebrew idiom that may be employed with divine titles, human titles or virtually anything. But the latter (what you refer to as the “divine plural”) is not an idiom in itself; rather, it is a particular application of the intensive/emphatic plural idiom. In other words, to intensify a singular word by making it plural is not exclusive to speaking about Deity - it’s simply a way to intensify or emphasize anything, whether it’s a personal title or a non-personal thing or animal; the same idiom is being used in both cases.
To show that human beings could be appropriately referred to with “intensive plural” titles without conveying the idea of divine (or pseudo-divine) status, here are a few more examples of the intensive plural being used for singular non-God entities.
In Isa 19:4, we read, “I will imprison the Egyptians in the hand of a harsh master; and a fierce king shall rule over them.” In this verse the fierce king that will enslave Egypt is described as a “a hard (singular) master (plural).” The plural suffix attached to the word “master” does not make it a numerical plural (“masters”) but instead intensifies the meaning (i.e., “great master”). Because the word “master” is here an intensive plural and not a numerical plural, it receives the singular adjective (“hard”) and not the plural adjective that would be required for a numerical plural.
Similarly, in Exodus 21:28-32 the owner of the “goring ox” is repeatedly referred to with the plural suffix even though the ox is only owned by one person. In this case, the plural suffix intensifies the noun, imbuing it with a connotation of “absolute owner” or “complete master.” Because “owner” is an intensive plural, it gets a singular verb. Thus we read concerning the negligent owner whose ox has killed someone, “the ox shall be stoned and the owner (he) will be put to death” (Ex 21:29). The verb “he will be put to death” is in the singular even though the word for “owner” has the plural suffix.
And in Mal 1:6, God says, “A son honors his father, and a servant his master (“masters”). If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master (“masters” again), where is my fear?” In both cases the word is not a numerical plural, but an intensive plural (i.e., “great master”). What’s interesting is that YHWH is clearly taking human titles that have nothing inherently or necessarily to do with Deity and applying them to himself to make his point (this fact will be important later on when we get to Isaiah 9:6 and 10:21).
In Judges 19:26 we read, “And as morning appeared, the woman came and fell down at the door of the man’s house where her master (adoneyah, “lords/masters”) was, till it was light.” Here the concubine’s master is referred to by the intensive plural for “lord.” It is clear from the context (where the referent of the plural noun is a single individual) that the plural emphasizes the Levite’s absolute authority over the woman.
In Gen. 24:9-10 we read, “So the servant put his hand under the thigh of Abraham his master and swore to him concerning this matter. Then the servant took ten of his master’s camels and departed, taking all sorts of choice gifts from his master; and he arose and went to Mesopotamia to the city of Nahor.” In all three cases, “master” is plural. But since Abraham is a singular being, the plural is to be understood as an intensive plural, not a numerical plural.
In Gen 40:1 we read, “Sometime after this, the cupbearer of the king of Egypt and his baker committed an offense against their lord (“lords”) the king of Egypt.” Again, same thing here; the plural is clearly intensive, not numerical. What’s most significant about this example is that here we find the same title used by Joseph’s brothers when they spoke of Joseph. However, Moses is not quoting anyone here (as is the case with Gen 42:30); it’s simply part of the narration; just as objectively true as Pharaoh was the “king of Egypt,” so he was the “lord” (plural intensive) of the cupbearer and the baker.
There are other examples, but I think the above are sufficient to show that, while certainly not as common as when God is being referred to (for obvious reasons, even from a non-trinitarian view), the intensive plural was an idiom not used exclusively or reservedly for God. But for the sake of argument, let’s assume that Joseph’s brothers were using the intensive plural when speaking of Joseph as a way to insult him in the sense that you suggested. To illustrate (albeit, simplistically) my problem with your argument that the use of plural titles, when referring to God, provides support for trinitarian doctrine, here’s a fictitious (and silly) dialogue:
Brother # 1 (as they’re all leaving Egypt): "Can you believe that guy? What a jerk! (At this point he pretends to act like someone very dignified) “Hey everyone, look at me, I’m ‘lord’ (plural) of the land! Everyone bow to me!” (all the brothers laugh)
Brother # 2 (who is somewhat denser than the others and tends to ask dumb questions): "Wait…why did you use the plural for “‘lord’?”
Brother # 1: “Duh, because we use plural titles like Elohim and Adonai when we’re talking about YHWH, and I’m insulting this guy who evidently thinks he has divine status or something!”
Brother #2: “Oh, ok…” (He is obviously still confused) “Uh, remind me again why we use plural titles for YHWH.”
Brother # 1: “I’m glad you asked! I’ve been giving it a lot of thought myself lately, and have concluded that it’s because…wait for it, guys…YHWH is a plurality of persons!”
(His brothers stare at him in stunned silence)
Brother #1 continues: “That’s right - as difficult as it may be for you all to comprehend (especially you, Bro # 2) - YHWH is more than one ‘he.’ YHWH is a “they!” That’s why we refer to him most of the time as ‘Elohim’ and ‘Adonai.’ It’s to reflect his multiple personhood!”
At this point brother #3 (who is noticeably flustered) speaks up: “What the #@!* are you talking about? YHWH isn’t a ‘plurality of persons,’ you idiot. We use plural titles for YHWH - such as Elohim instead of El, and Adonai instead of Adon - because the plural form simply emphasizes and intensifies the meaning of a word.”
(Brother #1 then quickly changes the subject; end imaginary dialogue)
Now, do you think “brother # 1” was closer to the truth, or “brother # 3?” Or do you think neither of them really knew why plural titles were used for YHWH (like brother # 2)?
Actually, I welcome your point (assuming it’s valid, of course), as I think it supports my point that elohim can either be understood in a numerically plural sense, or an intensive plural sense. When it’s referring to “more than one,” it’s understood in a numerically plural sense. But when it’s understood to refer to “one,” it’s understood in an intensive/emphatic plural sense. But it’s still the case that elohim is used to refer to singular (i.e., non-multi-personal) entities. As such, it must be understood as an intensive plural, and not as a numerical plural: Ex 7:1; 32:8, 31, 35; Judges 16:23; 1 Kings 18:25, 27; Psalm 45:6; Nehemiah 9:18.
That the heavenly hosts are being referred to when God speaks of “us” and “our” (which again, is the exception and not the rule) need not suggest that God receives advice from them as a human king who is limited in knowledge receives counsel from other men. And I’m not sure what other passages you have in mind other than Isaiah 40:13-14 (not to say there aren’t any), but these verses are evidently about God gaining understanding and knowledge from men, and do not mean that God doesn’t involve angelic beings in the decisions he makes (e.g., 1 Kings 22:19-22).