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How to Understand the Trinity

Moses saw God but doesn't teach the Trinity. Why?

Postby Mythril » Mon Feb 05, 2018 3:38 pm

Shemos (Exodus) 33:11-23 is a fascinating text. In it, Moses and God speak "face to face, as one man speaks to another," yet God proclaims that "man may not see Me and live." Moses demands that he be shown God's full glory and is granted the request: God "will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim before you the name LORD, and the grace that I grant and the compassion that I show."

The text strongly indicates that Moses was granted the fullest possible view of God's nature at the absolute limit of humanity's capacity to understand. It was incomplete, because finite mortals cannot understand the infinite divine. Moses did not see the "face" of God - and anyone who did receive more revelation on God's nature would die. But it was maximally comprehensive to the human limit, as Moses saw "all" of God's goodness, Name, grace, and compassion.

This should be deeply disturbing to Trinitarians! Moses nowhere informed the Jewish people that God was triune. If Moses had seen "all [God's] goodness" then he should have been aware of God's triune nature, if it were true. But Moses appears to be entirely unaware of the Trinity! He did not tell anyone, nor did he make it clear in the Torah. Moses' silence on the Trinity is deafening.

Since Moses received that maximum mortal picture of God, then if Trinitarian theology is true then Moses must have known. But if Moses knew that God was triune, why did Moses not teach the Jews in the desert that fact?

The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as one man speaks to another. And he would then return to the camp; but his attendant, Joshua son of Nun, a youth, would not stir out of the Tent.

Moses said to the LORD, “See, You say to me, ‘Lead this people forward,’ but You have not made known to me whom You will send with me. Further, You have said, ‘I have singled you out by name, and you have, indeed, gained My favor.’

Now, if I have truly gained Your favor, pray let me know Your ways, that I may know You and continue in Your favor. Consider, too, that this nation is Your people.”

And He said, “I will go in the lead and will lighten your burden.”

And he said to Him, “Unless You go in the lead, do not make us leave this place.

For how shall it be known that Your people have gained Your favor unless You go with us, so that we may be distinguished, Your people and I, from every people on the face of the earth?”

And the LORD said to Moses, “I will also do this thing that you have asked; for you have truly gained My favor and I have singled you out by name.”

He said, “Oh, let me behold Your Presence!”

And He answered, “I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim before you the name LORD, and the grace that I grant and the compassion that I show.

But,” He said, “you cannot see My face, for man may not see Me and live.”

And the LORD said, “See, there is a place near Me. Station yourself on the rock

and, as My Presence passes by, I will put you in a cleft of the rock and shield you with My hand until I have passed by.

Then I will take My hand away and you will see My back; but My face must not be seen.”
Mythril
 

Re: Moses saw God but doesn't teach the Trinity. Why?

Postby jimwalton » Mon Feb 05, 2018 3:53 pm

> The text strongly indicates that Moses was granted the fullest possible view of God's nature at the absolute limit of humanity's capacity to understand.

You are assuming this, but the text doesn't say as much, meaning it doesn't necessarily indicate this. It says in Shemos 33.18 that Moses requests to see God's glory (kebodeka), which, according to Brevard Childs, could be "a technical expression denoting that side of the divine nature that can be perceived by man through revelation." Dr. John Walton postulates, "Possibly Moses is asking for the theophany in terms of a new set of tablets. He wants God to come and give the law again, to renew the covenant after the breach of the golden calf, to prove he is not deserting his people (cf. ch. 34)."

God's presence at this point has been linked with the pillar of cloud and the fire. In Shemos 16.7, the people told they would see God's glory. Moses has negotiated God's presence to not only accompany them, but to precede them. Moses may be requesting that God take His place at the lead of the nation again (after the debacle of the Golden Calf) in his divine brilliance. Remember that Moses has recently barely persuaded God not to destroy Israel altogether. Moses is seeking reassurance that God is still with them, He will still accompany them, and He will still lead them.

In other words, it may not be accurate at all to assume that Moses wants the fullest possible view of God's nature.

Moses did not see the fullness of God's nature (and therefore not any Trinitarian revelation). In Shemos 33.19, God promises to let all of His goodness pass in front of Moses, and he would proclaim His name. The implication is that God’s kindness, compassion, and mercies are a greater revelation of the inner essence of God than an experience of bright light or of earthquake or of some dramatic apparition such as the bluish radiance that appeared in Shemos 24.10.

Shemos 33.20 lets us know that Moses will not, indeed, see the fullest possible view of God's nature, as you yourself mentioned. It's altogether possible, as I have mentioned, that Shemos 34 records "God's goodness" that passed in front of Moses, namely, a new set of tablets and the renewal of the covenant.
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Re: Moses saw God but doesn't teach the Trinity. Why?

Postby Mythril » Tue Feb 06, 2018 3:04 pm

> In other words, it may not be accurate at all to assume that Moses wants the fullest possible view of God's nature.

Fair, but that's not what God is recorded to have granted Moses.

> Shemos 33.20 lets us know that Moses will not, indeed, see the fullest possible view of God's nature, as you yourself mentioned. It's altogether possible, as I have mentioned, that Shemos 34 records "God's goodness" that passed in front of Moses, namely, a new set of tablets and the renewal of the covenant.

How does that permit a later Trinitarian revalation, especially since all of God's goodness, kindness, compassion, and mercies must include the Trinitarian Incarnation, Crucifixion, and Resurrection if Trinitarian Christianity were true. Cf. these verses about Jesus' compassion, etc. (https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/947-compassion-of-christ-the)

I have already argued that Moses being granted "all" of God's glory but not "God's face" is most reasonably interpreted to mean "everything about God that mortal man can know and survive."

If Moses did not receive everything, why?
Mythril
 

Re: Moses saw God but doesn't teach the Trinity. Why?

Postby jimwalton » Tue Feb 06, 2018 3:05 pm

> Fair, but that's not what God is recorded to have granted Moses

What God is recorded to have granted Moses is less than the fullest possible view of his nature. When Moses asked to see God's glory (33.18), we are left to interpret what he meant by that. As I mentioned, it could be that God would not desert His people because of the Golden Calf incident (ch. 32), that God would take his place at the head of the column once again (cloud and fire), or that God would renew the covenant, which seems to be what happens in Exodus 34 in response to Moses's request.

In any case, God is telling Moses point blank that He will not show Moses the fullest possible view of his nature. We are specifically told that what will pass before Moses is God's goodness, and that He will declare His Name. But then, more importantly, God told him that he would only see His back (23). We are also left to interpret this, but clearly Moses isn't seeing everything, as you claimed in your original post. So what God is recorded to have granted Moses is to see His goodness, to hear His name, and to see His back.

> How does [Shemos 34] permit a later Trinitarian revelation?

I assume you know that the Ten Words are neither a summary of the Torah or even necessarily the most important part of it. They only function the way the rest of the Torah functions: a list of illustrations that serve to circumscribe, in part, the realm of legal wisdom for the covenant people. The Torah is contingent on the tabernacle, providing a means for Israel to survive in such close proximity to the intrinsically dangerous presence of God. It gave practical shape to holiness so the people would know how to maintain access to God's presence and to the relationship that God's presence facilitated. So the Torah was a foundation for God's presence.

Jesus, as you know, is considered by Christians to be "Immanuel"—God with us. In other words, Jesus was the fulfillment of the Torah. He accomplished what the Torah failed to do: bring the presence of God into the very midst of His people. The Torah is not intended to give us a universal moral/ethical system, but to help Israel know how to live in the presence of a holy God and as his covenant people. Since it was not possible to see God's face and live, the strategy to accomplish what Moses could not was for God to incarnate to mediate God's presence among us and to make it truly possible for us to live in the presence of God. Jesus's death provided the true atonement once and for all that animal sacrifice could not. He provided the way through the covenant of blood to be reconciled to God.

God has always planned to dwell among His people and to be truly present with us. This is what Eden, the Tabernacle, the Torah, and the Temple were all about. This is what permits a later Trinitarian revelation. Jesus claims to be the new Adam, that his body is the Temple, and that He is the fulfillment of the Torah—that He is God's presence among us that will never depart (as God's presence did in the Tanakh).

> If Moses did not receive everything, why?

He wasn't asking for everything. God gave him the full measure of what he was asking for: the renewed covenant, God's presence with His people (in the tabernacle), and taking His place as the guide and Divine Warrior for the nation.
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Re: Moses saw God but doesn't teach the Trinity. Why?

Postby Mythril » Tue Feb 06, 2018 4:54 pm

> What God is recorded to have granted Moses is less than the fullest possible view of his nature.

Moses is recorded as having received "all" of it, except for "God's face" because seeing that kills humans.

Nothing you've said below supports any other reading of the text.

> When Moses asked to see God's glory (33.18), we are left to interpret what he meant by that.

What Moses asked for is completely irrelevant. What matters is what God showed him.

> In any case, God is telling Moses point blank that He will not show Moses the fullest possible view of his nature. ... We are also left to interpret this, but clearly Moses isn't seeing everything, as you claimed in your original post. So what God is recorded to have granted Moses is to see His goodness, to hear His name, and to see His back.

In other words: all of God'a goodness and glory, minus the thing that kills morals on sight.

If knowledge of the Trinity was obscured from Moses, it must be (1) part of "God's face," or at the very least (2) not part of the "all" that God did show Moses. Which is it?

If the Trinity were part of "God's face," then knowledge of it would kill people. This is clearly not the case.

If the Trinity were not part of the "all of My goodness," His Name, or His "grace that I grant and compassion I show." How does that comport with the many claims about Jesus' goodness, the compassion in Jesus' sacrifice, and the grace of the Son?

> I assume you know that the Ten Words are neither a summary of the Torah or even necessarily the most important part of it. They only function the way the rest of the Torah functions: a list of illustrations that serve to circumscribe, in part, the realm of legal wisdom for the covenant people.

That was Moses' summary of his experience. Do you really think that, if Moses was exposed to a triune divine nature, he wouldn't have told us that in addition to these ten words? Not even once in the whole Torah?

> The Torah is contingent on the tabernacle, providing a means for Israel to survive in such close proximity to the intrinsically dangerous presence of God. It gave practical shape to holiness so the people would know how to maintain access to God's presence and to the relationship that God's presence facilitated. So the Torah was a foundation for God's presence.

Then why not reveal the triune nature of God to them?

> Jesus, as you know, is considered by Christians to be "Immanuel"—God with us. In other words, Jesus was the fulfillment of the Torah. He accomplished what the Torah failed to do: bring the presence of God into the very midst of His people. The Torah is not intended to give us a universal moral/ethical system, but to help Israel know how to live in the presence of a holy God and as his covenant people.

The Torah creates a set of dictates that serve to remind the observant of God's presence every day. That is "bringing the presence of God into the very midst of His people."

But even if you refuse to accept that claim for whatever reason: the Torah could have accomplished all that by, you know, revealing the triune nature of God and having Jesus do his shindig in Egypt.

But that didn't happen.

> Since it was not possible to see God's face and live, the strategy to accomplish what Moses could not was for God to incarnate to mediate God's presence among us and to make it truly possible for us to live in the presence of God.

Then why didn't God tell Moses this directly, unless that Incarnation was somehow outside God's compassion and grace and goodness, not part of the Name of God?

And if God did tell Moses directly, why didn't Moses tell us directly?

> Jesus's death provided the true atonement once and for all that animal sacrifice could not. He provided the way through the covenant of blood to be reconciled to God.

Nah.

> He wasn't asking for everything. God gave him the full measure of what he was asking for: the renewed covenant, God's presence with His people (in the tabernacle), and taking His place as the guide and Divine Warrior for the nation.

Again: Moses' request is irrelevant to what God stated He gave Moses. Which appears to exclude the Trinity.
Mythril
 

Re: Moses saw God but doesn't teach the Trinity. Why?

Postby jimwalton » Wed Mar 21, 2018 8:00 pm

> Moses is recorded as having received "all" of it

Then "all" doesn't really mean "all," because what Moses got to see was all of God's goodness. What about His holiness? In any case, we have to interpret what it is that Moses saw when he saw the "back" of God's "glory".

> What Moses asked for is completely irrelevant. What matters is what God showed him.

Nothing in the narrative is irrelevant. Nothing in the Holy Torah is irrelevant.

> In other words: all of God'a goodness and glory, minus the thing that kills mortals on sight.

And who knows what else was not included. What about His beauty (Ps. 27.4)? And you keep ignoring what I said about what all this means. Possibly what Moses was asking for was a renewed covenant (Ex. 34), the return of God to the head of the column, or the guarantee of His presence (the tabernacle, Ex. 36-40). You may be putting too much emphasis on your theory that Moses is seeing all the fullness of God except what kills mortals. That may not be what this text is about at all.

> If knowledge of the Trinity was obscured from Moses, it must be (1) part of "God's face," or at the very least (2) not part of the "all" that God did show Moses. Which is it?

Those could both be the same thing, or it may be neither, since the text may not even be about God revealing the full nature of Himself to Moses. We know that God reveals Himself progressively. Noah knew more than Adam, Abraham knew more than Noah, Moses knew more than Abraham, and David knew more than Moses. Each iteration of the covenant built on previous revelation.

You're probably aware that God's revelation of Himself to Moses (Ex. 34) is different from God's revelation of Himself to Isaiah (Isa. 6) and to Ezekiel (Ezk. 1). That's OK. People get to see what part of God He shows to them. It has no bearing on their Trinitarian understanding, though there are those who say that God revealed Himself as a Trinity to Moses in the *Shema*, to Isaiah in the Servant Song (Isa. 53), and to Ezekiel in the meaning of the glory of the Lord (Ezk. 1).

> Do you really think that, if Moses was exposed to a triune divine nature, he wouldn't have told us that in addition to these ten words? Not even once in the whole Torah?

There is no explicit evidence in the Torah that Moses was particularly exposed to the triune divine nature. God's revelation is progressive, as I have already shown.

> Then why not reveal the triune nature of God to them?

Possibly He did, in hints and shadows. There are possible trinitarian references strewn throughout the Tanakh, from the Spirit of God hovering over the waters in Bereshith 1.2 to the prophecies of Malachi 3 or Isaiah's prophecies that fit into the context of 2 Chron. 32.

> The Torah creates a set of dictates that serve to remind the observant of God's presence every day.

God wanted his people to have certain attitudes. He did that by commanding actions (Torah) with the idea that they would see the attitudes behind them. The Ten Words are focused on directing Israel to construct an identity as the people of God, shaping their worldview and community so that God could be present with them.

> the Torah could have accomplished all that by, you know, revealing the triune nature of God and having Jesus do his shindig in Egypt. But that didn't happen.

There are many things God could have done. We are left to analyze and interpret what He *did* do.

> unless that Incarnation was somehow outside God's compassion and grace and goodness, not part of the Name of God?

This is an illegitimate conclusion. There may have been many reasons God chose the action and revelation He did. Settling on this one as the only possible conclusion is a distortion at best. And since we know from the New Testament that the Incarnation was clearly set forth to show God's compassion, grace and goodness, it is likely a deleterious and wrong conclusion.

> Jesus's death...true atonement...NAH

If you want to know what New Testament theology teaches, it's YEAH. The atonement provided by the sacrifices is not for sin but contamination (Vayikra 16 [Leviticus for other readers]). The blood—the life force—purifies the "death" that has entered the Temple after the defilement of the Temple by Nadab and Abihu (Vayikra 10).

But the New Testament (in many places, but particularly Hebrews 9 & 10) tells how Jesus's death was the true atonement foreshadowed by the burnt offering, the sin offering, and the atonement in Vayikra. Obviously you don't believe that, and that's your prerogative.


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