Continued from Chapter 5

(Genesis 18-19)

Christians take Genesis 18 and 19 as proof for their trinitarian views. In their search for evidence in support of the doctrine of the Trinity, they claim that the three angels who appeared to Abraham as he sat in his tent door under the oaks of Mamre were actually the first, second and third persons of the Trinity.

Although the complexity of the context may lend itself to several interpretations, the Christian understanding of these chapters as referring to a triune god is totally unacceptable on scriptural grounds alone. Genesis 18:1 may be interpreted as Y-H-V-H speaking to Abraham prior to the arrival of the three men mentioned in verse 2. Most probably, however, verse 1 acts as an introductory remark informing the reader that Y-H-V-H spoke to Abraham, with the following verses being the details of how that encounter was accomplished. The text of Genesis 18 and 19 is not clear as to whether Y-H-V-H spoke at any time, directly to Abraham or solely through an angel, in the guise of a man, who acted as an intermediary. But these are minor problems compared to the problems involved in the Christian interpretation. The latter are of a nature that reveals the shallowness of the theological assertions of Christians concerning these two chapters.

As mentioned, Christians believe that the three men who visited Abraham are the three personalities of the so-called Trinity. But, then, which part of God would they say is Y-H-V-H who speaks to Abraham after two of the men depart (Genesis 18:22)? If the three angels are the three persons of the Trinity, then how could Y-H-V-H say: “You cannot see my face, for man shall not see Me and live” (Exodus 33:20)? Abraham and Sarah would have died had they gazed upon the supposed Father, Son and Holy Spirit, unless what they saw was not God but three angelic beings manifested in human form for the several purposes assigned to them. Even John exposes the error when he declares that “no man has seen God at any time” (John 1:18, 1 John 4:12). Since a number of people saw the faces of the three angels and still lived, we must presume that they were not God. Of the three visitors, one is specifically sent as a messenger from Y-H-V-H to Abraham. Through him, Y-H-V-H speaks, in Genesis 18, to Abraham. He is the one who delivers God’s message concerning the birth of Isaac, and it is through him that Y-H-V-H speaks to Abraham concerning the possibility of saving the two cities.

Thus, for example, in verse 22: “And the men turned from there, and went toward Sodom; but Abraham stood yet before Y-H-V-H,” and in verse 33 it says: “And Y-H-V-H went His way, as soon as He had left off speaking to Abraham.” As Y-H-V-H’s agent the messenger speaks as Y-H-V-H and is referred to accordingly. The authority which he expresses is not his own but God’s. It is God who oversees all events, and that is why, even though the Scriptures describe the angels as going to Sodom, Y-H-V-H states, in verse 21: “I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which has come to Me, and if not, I will know."

In Genesis 19:1, two of the men are now referred to as angels, literally, “messengers,” while the third, having accomplished his mission of speaking to Abraham, is no longer involved in the narrative. That is why only two of the visitors are mentioned as arriving at their destination. The text indicates that the function of these two men is to bring about the destruction of Sodom by exposing through their mere presence, all the evil that resides in the hearts of the inhabitants. The two angels are never referred to as God, as should be expected if the Christian position is correct. They are portrayed as God’s agents carrying out His commands. Simply stated, they cannot be God if they are sent by Him to do His bidding. At no time do the two angels take the initiative in making critical decisions concerning Sodom. Hence they exclaim: “[W]e will destroy this place, because their cry has become great before Y-H-V-H; and Y-H-V-H has sent us to destroy it” (Genesis 19:13).

It is obvious that it is not the angels who decide to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah; they only act as agents for Y-H-V-H. He made the decision and sends them to carry it out. At no time do the Scriptures say that the two angels declare “we heard their cry” or “we have come on our own initiative.” The angels only speak in terms of what they are commanded to do. In contrast, Y-H-V-H, apparently through the medium of the third man, speaks with authority throughout the narrative. However, this man is not God in human form, as Christians argue, but an angel in the guise of a human being. In the end, it is God, and not the angels, who causes the destruction of the wicked cities, as is clearly stated in Genesis 19:24: “Then Y-H-V-H caused to rain upon Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from Y-H-V-H out of heaven.”

From verse 24, Christians infer that there were two divine personalities, one on earth, conversing with Abraham, and the other in heaven. The one on earth rained down fire upon the two cities from the one in heaven. There is, however, no grammatical basis for such an inference. Actually, in accordance with the construction of the Hebrew language, we find that in the first half of the verse, the reader is informed who caused the brimstone and fire to fall upon the two cities, and in the second half of the verse he is told for emphasis, not only from whom it came but also from where. The verse emphasizes that it is “from Y-H-V-H,” in order to leave no doubt as to who is in command of events. Furthermore, the technique of speaking in the third person about Himself is used by God in other scriptural contexts (e.g., Exodus 3:12, 24:1; Numbers 19:1-2; Zechariah 1:12-17). It is a common feature of the Scriptures to repeat the noun rather than make use of a pronoun. In addition, an individual will frequently speak of himself in the third person instead of using the first person. Examples of this may be seen in the following: Lamech said, “Hear my voice you wives of Lamech” (Genesis 4:23), not “my wives”; similarly David said, “Take with you the servants of your lord” (1 Kings 1:33), not “my servants”; and Ahasuerus said, “in the name of the king” (Esther 8:8), not “in my name.” In the same way, the use of “from the Lord” rather than “from Him,” in the verse under discussion, conforms to the biblical usage.

These very verses, by which Christians attempt to prove their claims, demolish, in effect, the theory of a coequal triune partnership. If the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is the act of a triune god, in which all three personalities take part, it would show them to be unequal partners. It is stated in Genesis 19:13: “[W]e will destroy this place, because their cry has become great before Y-H-V-H, and Y-H-V-H has sent us to destroy it,” implying that two of the divine personalities are inferior in status since they do the bidding of the third. The claim that any, or all, of these three angels was God is a contradiction of the biblical text of Genesis 18 and 19.

© Gerald Sigal