De Moor V:16: Old Testament Confirmation of the Doctrine of the Trinity, Part 4



As some of the doctors of the Hebrews, among whom is Rabbi Levi ben Gerson,[1] yet frivolously maintain that the three Men appearing to Abraham, and received by him in hospitality, were three Prophets of those times, of which sort were Shem, Heber, and others; whose inane speculations and dull comments, as he calls them, heap up many things that are plainly false, WITSIUS shows in his Miscellaneorum sacrorum, book I, chapter XVI, § 16, tome I: while others of the Jews similarly gratuitously and falsely understand three created Angels, named Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael; see ANTONIUS HULSIUS’ Nucleum Prophetiæ, on Genesis 18:1, 2, § 4, page 156. On the other hand, thus many Fathers from the earliest years, out of pious zeal, attempted to prove the Holy Trinity from this history, as if the Three Persons of the Deity had appeared to Abraham under the form of Three Men, as AMBROSE, AUGUSTINE, and PASCHASIUS Diaconus,[2] are cited on this matter, to whom add from the Greeks ATHANASIUS, de Communi Essentia Patris, Filii, et Spiritus Sancti, opera, tome I, pages 216, 217; following whom, Theologians of a later age, so that the Theologians that lived nearest after the Reformation acknowledge that this passage was wont to be cited by Our Men in the Church, when the mystery of the Holy Triad and Unity was treated, so that they might hence gather the mystery of the Trinity. So it appeared in the preceding century to the great Men also, COCCEIUS, BURMAN, MOMMA,[3] and WITSIUS, De Œconomia Fœderum, book IV, chapter III, § 3-8, who nevertheless, in the latter years of his life, again repudiated that opinion, as the Reverend Ulrich Velingius related to me, May 14, 1758; but JAN VAN DEN HONERT also contends for the same opinion, Miscellaneorum sacrorum, tome 2, pages 595, 596.



But, if there is to be a contest between authorities, one may here oppose some Fathers against others, since JUSTIN MARTYR expressly asserts that here two Angels appeared with Christ the Lord, Dialogue with Trypho, pages 275-281. EPIPHANIUS likewise states that the Lord appeared to Abraham with two created Angels, in Ancorato, § XXIX, opera, tome 2, page 34. One may join AUGUSTINE with him, who, in his City of God, book XVI, chapter XXIX, writes, that it is not to be doubted that these three men were Angels; although some think that one of them was the Lord Christ, the Son of God. Among our Theologians, the Men of the first rank reject this argument for the Trinity: MUSCULUS,[4] MARTYR, CALVIN, PAREUS, ANTONIUS HULSIUS in Nucleo Prophetiæ on Genesis 18:1, 2, pages 154-162; and afterwards LEYDEKKER in his Face Veritatis, locus IV, question X, pages 223-225; and most recently LAMPE in his Dissertationum philologico-theologicarum, volume II, Dissertation IX, chapter X, § 3, pages 323, 324; just as from the Lutherans BUDDEUS’ Historiam ecclesiasticam Veteris Testamenti, period I, section III, § 17, tome I, pages 301, 302. Our AUTHOR also judges that this position is rather to be taken with these latter men, supposing that the Son of God here appeared with two created Angels. Upon which matter we observe with our AUTHOR:


α. That only One of these three goes under the name of יְהוָה/ Jehovah/Lord, and is distinguished with sufficient clarity from the others as of greater dignity, Genesis 18:13, 14, 17, 20, 22, 33.



β. That of the other two nothing appears that is divine, and surpassing the condition of Angels: contrariwise, these two are distinguished from Jehovah as Men, Genesis 18:22; and by nature or their perpetual office these, appearing in human form, are expressly called Angels, Genesis 19:1, 15, without any epithet that could induce us to think of uncreated Angels; they are called simply Men again, Genesis 19:16, with which their servile Ministry mentioned here, completely suitable for Angels, best agrees. Thus, after the Lord had spoken concerning the Judgment that He was considering against Sodom and Gomorrah, Genesis 18:20, 21; these two Men, verse 22, about to be ministers in the execution of this Judgment of the Lord, convey themselves to Sodom in order to fulfil His commands, while Jehovah Himself yet tarries for some time with Abraham. These two with sufficient clarity distinguish themselves from Jehovah, as mere ministers sent by Him, Genesis 19:13, 14; as the sacred text again distinguishes thes men from Jehovah in verse 16. Indeed, so great a familiarity of these Angels in the use of the hospitality of Lot is noted, Genesis 19:2-4; it would hardly be fitting in the case of divine Persons.


γ. Paul is everywhere judged to allude manifestly to this history, and especially to the two Angels lodging with Lot, Hebrews 13:2; but his expression sufficiently indicates that these were created Angels. Now, if these two Men had been divine Persons, this would have much more made for the commendation of hospitality, clearly to relate that. Neither is it to be said that Paul understands divine Persons under the name of Angels, with the denomination sought from the history of Moses. Since that bare description in Paul, as well as in Moses, of these Men as ἀγγέλων/angels is gardly worthy of divine Persons. And, just as the appellation of Angel is not altogether agreeable to the Father, so it has not yet been evidently demonstrated that the name of Angel is ever attributed in Sacred Scripture to the Holy Spirit.


δ. The Mystery of the divine Apparition in Human form is not incorrectly judged to have regard to the future Incarnation and true ἐνανθρώπησιν, putting on of human nature, which belongs to the Son of God alone: hence that Apparition in a visible human form assumed, mentioned quite frequently concerning the Son of God under the Old Testament, is nowhere accepted by great Men to have been related concerning the other divine Persons; although God the Father once in a dream and phantasmic vision appeared to Daniel, Daniel 7:9. And, although we say that in Isaiah 6:1 not immediately God the Son, but the Triune God, appeared to the Prophet, this vision was Prophetic, a manifestation of the internal mental image itself. Which things are hence far different from a visible Apparition before the eyes of the body, suited to external conversation and familiar fellowship with men, which sort of things occur here.


ε. And, while some thus strive to establish the faith of the Trinity on an extremely dubious argument; the arguments that this history otherwise furnishes for the Deity of the son and the Plurality of divine Persons are ruined or weakened. For, if the Son of God here appeared with two created Angels, it is most manifestly proven from Genesis 18:13, 14, 17, 20, 22, 26, 33 that the Name יְהוָה/Jehovah/Lord is applicable to the Son of God, which is Incommunicable to creatures; and it evinces the true Deity of the Son. But, if the three Persons of the Deity were present here, by the Name יְהוָה/Jehovah in Genesis 18 the Father is to be understood, who remained for some time with Abraham, while the Son and the Spirit as Angels of His directed their steps toward Sodom. For the Father, as He is sent by no one, is never able to receive the name of Angel. Thus out of Genesis 19:24 we seek an argument, and that not weak, for the Plurality of divine Persons, if one Person, being visibly present on this earth, is said to have caused fire to rain down from another Person, gloriously manifestly Himself in heaven as the throne on which He sits. But, if all Three Persons of the Deity were at that time visibly present on earth, it will not be able to be said with such propriety of speech that one Jehovah has caused to rain down by another Jehovah from heaven; but one name Jehovah is generally to be held as a reciprocal pronoun.


Herman Witsius

Objection α. After the mention of the Appearance of Jehovah in Genesis 18:1, וַיֵּרָ֤א אֵלָיו֙ יְהוָ֔ה, and Jehovah appeared unto him; then mention is made of the Three Men in verse 2, וַיַּ֔רְא וְהִנֵּה֙ שְׁלֹשָׁ֣ה אֲנָשִׁ֔ים וגו״,[5]and he looked, and, lo, three men, etc. Which words, says WITSIUS, De Œconomia Fœderum, book IV, chapter III, § 5, certainly appear to contain an explanation of the manner in which God appeared to Abraham.


I Respond: These words do indeed make for the explanation of the manner of this Appearance of Jehovah: but the attendants, whom Jehovah had led with Him, also pertain to this.


Objection β. Divine and Equal Honor was offered to the Three. Indeed, they observe that Abraham addresses those Three in the singular number, as if they were One, verse 3, perhaps being accustomed to see God in a similar form; and therefore making use of the religious manner of address, אֲדֹנָי/Adonai/Lord, with the Qametz (ָ).


I Respond: If I should concede that, on account of the customary use of the Name אדני with this pointing, Abraham was exhibiting religious Honor to the one whom he was addressing; I should also say, casting the Most Illustrious WITSIUS’ words, De Œconomia Fœderum, book IV, chapter III, § 6, back upon himself, that Abraham, perhaps being accustomed to see God in a similar form, then realized that God the Son was appearing to him with two created Angels, and so directed his speech expressing religious awe to the divine Person alone as Lord; the remaining two were only His servants. In what follows, it is not clearly found that he offered to the remaining two Men an honor that exceeds the character of created, ministering Spirits: but, standing before one of those, called Jehovah, he distinguishes this one only even four times, verses 27, 30, 31, 32, by the name אֲדֹנָי/Adonai/Lord with the Qametz (ָ); this one he acknowledges to be the Judge of all the earth, verse 25, whom he worships with repeated supplications and prayers.


Objection γ. The Singular Number is quite frequently interchanged with the Plural in the conversation with Abraham because of the Unity of Essence and the Trinity of these Persons.


I Respond: That is rather to be attributed to the plurality of the Persons appearing, and to the excellence of One of these three, to whom alone are hence also ascribed words befitting God alone, and who speaks far more than the remaining two.


Objection δ. Those two, who, while Jehovah remained with Abraham, had withdrawn themselves to Lot and pressed toward Sodom, are also addressed by Lot by the Name of אֲדֹנָי/Adonai/Lord with the Qametz (ָ), Genesis 19:18; indeed, are called יְהוָה/Jehovah/Lord in verse 24.



I Respond: 1. Lot addresses these Men, inasmuch as they were not the true God, in the plural number אֲדֹנַי, my lords, with a patach (ַ), in Genesis 19:2, although he was ignorant, as it does indeed appear out of Hebrews 13:2, that they were Angels; although perhaps already suspecting something similar on account of their form; at least for the true condition of these persons, who because of their natural excellence and dignity were deserving to be called Lords, whose servant Lot was professing himself to be, in which manner also one man speaks in respect of another; but names or honor truly divine we do not see applied to them. 2. As to these, so also concerning these, is speech made in the plural number from verse 2 unto the end of verse 16. 3. Therefore, when in verse 17 in the singular the mandate of one follows, a mandate truly Lordly and worthy of a divine Person, while in the beginning of the verse the Angels are still narrated in the plural as leading Lot out with them; the execution itself then also being recounted at length, especially in verse 24, with the counsel of God previously declared to Abraham, Genesis 18:20, 21, and being compared with the subsequent narration of Moses in Genesis 18:33; these things sufficiently demonstrate, although Moses was able to it not necessary to signify this here in so many words, that יְהוָה/Jehovah/Lord, who had previously remained for a time with Abraham, now directed Himself toward Sodom, and that Lot and his family were led out by the Angels to this Lord, who now in the singular command Lot, verse 17, escape for thy life, etc.; who then also, according to His Lordly power, for Lot’s sake promises to save the city of Zoar from the common destruction of the neighboring cities, and grants this to Lot as a place of refuge, verses 21, 22. And so, 4. Lot addresses this Lord by the name אֲדֹנָי/Adonai/Lord, verse 18; to this one, addressed in the singular number, he sets forth his prayers, verses 19, 20; moreover, this one is also called יְהוָה/Jehovah/Lord in verse 24, to whom the principal work of the overthrow of Sodom is deservedly attributed.


The only thing that appears to hinder is what Lot is said to have spoken אֲלֵהֶם, unto them, אַל־נָ֖א אֲדֹנָֽי׃, not so, my Lord, verse 18. But if Lot directs his speech to those two alone, who had come aside to him; why now, less than previously, does he address them in the Plural? It is best to say that, when the Lord met them, escaping from Sodom, these Angels again joined themselves to the Lord as His attendants; and so Lot, after he heard the command of the Lord, having turned, spoke אֲלֵהֶם, unto them, in such a way that the very argument of his speech nevertheless signifies manifestly enough that the speech of Lot was directed to one of the three, namely, the Lord, who had now come near to them again. Whence the Lord might then in like manner become known to Lot here, whether from the admonition of the the Angels leading Lot out, since these were seeing the Lord approaching them, or from a revelation of the Spirit, or from another source.

[1] Although little is known about the life of Levi ben Gershon, also known as Gersonides and Ralbag (1288-1344), his interests included, not only Biblical and Talmudic interpretation, but also philosophy, science, and mathematics. [2] Paschasius (died c. 511) was ordained a deacon around the year 500. He is remembered for his piety, and his care for the poor. Two books De Spiritu Sancto have been attributed to him, but perhaps not rightly. [3] Wilhelm Momma (1642-1677) was a German Reformed pastor and theologian, serving as Professor of Theology at Hamm (1674-1676). Momma was trained under Cocceius, and wrote an important federal theology, De varia conditione & statu Ecclesiæ Dei sub triplici Œconomia. [4] Wolfgang Musculus (1497-1563) was a Reformed theologian, serving as Professor of Theology at Bern (1549-1563). He has had enduring impacting through his Biblical Commentaries and his Locos communes sacræ theologiæ. [5] וַיַּ֔רְא וְהִנֵּה֙ שְׁלֹשָׁ֣ה אֲנָשִׁ֔ים וגו״ (Gen 18:2 WTT)

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