Marriage and the Trinity
Oct 19, 2015
In the church doctrinal debates about the Trinity, the point was made that any single expression of the trinity was all God, but not all of God. In other words, to say that God was just “God the Father” did not fully encompass all that was of God. “God the Son” and “God the Holy Spirit” has to be added in order to encompass fully who God is. Once they defined God as this Trinity, they were satisfied that they understood the full nature of the “Godhead.”
But did they really understand? Did they really encompass everything that God is? I have always felt in my spirit that this was somewhat presumptuous, and for this reason I have avoided the topic over the years. The Trinity is not in my Statement of Beliefs. It is not that I disbelieve it; it is rather that I have never felt comfortable with the idea that theologians, in their limited understanding, are smart enough to comprehend the fullness of God.
Being aware of their limitations, or not thinking more highly of themselves than they ought, should be the nature of all theologians. If this had been the case in the various Church Councils, they might have approached their controversies with greater love and humility toward their theological adversaries.
God’s Image: Male and Female
Early theologians were so focused upon the Trinity that they failed to see the main expression of God in the first chapter of Genesis 1:26, “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.” This divine intent was then fulfilled in verse 27, “And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”
The image and likeness of God, then, includes male and female aspects of God. If this were not so, then the earthly image of God would express just one sex, either male or female. Of course the early theologians could not bring themselves to picture God in feminine terms, so they pictured God as a divine male figure. Anything else was considered to be pagan, because many pagan religions included goddesses, or female expressions of God.
Yet we find God making (forming) mankind—His highest and best creation—both male and female, as if to say that one or the other was inadequate in expressing who God is. Furthermore, Genesis 1:28 says,
28 And God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
When this command was given, prior to the advent of sin, the Dominion Mandate was given to both Adam and Eve. “God said to THEM… subdue… and rule.” What does this tell us? First, both the man and the woman in Genesis 1:26-28 carried the Dominion Mandate equally. No authority, one over the other, was necessary—nor even relevant—because prior to sin, they had no disagreements. Being in unity, one did not have to command the other to do this or to do that.
Commands are given to servants or slaves. Commands are given to those who are reluctant to do the master’s will. Even the best servant is still learning to be in agreement. Yet in Genesis 1:28 there is a presumption of agreement between male and female and between God and the two in His likeness. Anything less than this would have fallen short of the image of God.
The Two Creation Accounts
The book of Genesis is a compilation of eleven tablets and manuscripts, which Moses edited and gave to us as a single book. It is outside of our scope here to separate each of these eleven “books,” but they each carry a Genesis Title: “These are the generations of…” or “This is the family history of…” In ancient times, the titles on tablets came at the end of the book, presumably after the death of the patriarch writing the book.
The first manuscript ends in Genesis 2:4, having completed the day-by-day account of the creation of the heavens and the earth. What follows is the family history of Adam (Genesis 2:5-5:1). It is a separate story, focusing specifically upon Adam, how his family came into existence, and what happened in the Garden.
The account in Genesis 1 is a little different from Genesis 2 insofar as man’s creation, because the first account shows when they were created, relative to the other parts of creation, while the second account shows how they were created. By understanding that these accounts were set forth originally in separate tablets as distinct books, we are better able to see that the awdawm created in Genesis 1:26 (translated “man” without the definite article “the”) is mankind in general, whereas the awdawm in Genesis 2:7 (eth ha awdawm, “this same man Adam”) is specifically the first man, Adam.
One is a general awdawm (as a species); the other is specifically the man who carried the name Adam (the head of the species).
The Origin of Adam’s Authority Over Eve
The divine intent in creating male and female was to create a two-member team having authority over the rest of the earth. It was only after sin entered the picture that death passed into all mankind (Romans 5:12). This planted seeds of disunity and disharmony, which (God knew) would only grow over the centuries until most of mankind would find itself in total rebellion.
For this reason, God saw fit to establish authority, not only over the creation, but also by putting the man over the woman. So in Genesis 3:16 God says to Eve, “He will rule over you.” Of course, this was not God’s original intent, nor was it an ideal relationship. It simply reflected the reality of sin and the mortal state. When two absolutely disagree, paralysis sets in unless one has the authority to make a decision and overrule the other.
Authority does not determine what is right, for it may often happen that a woman’s opinion is correct in such a disagreement. Hence, the man must not use this authority in a prideful way, thinking that his authority makes him right. Instead, his responsibility is to discern the leading of the Spirit, taking his wife’s perspective seriously. In fact, since authority and responsibility come in equal measure, the man becomes responsible to establish or maintain the original pattern of equality in marriage that existed prior to sin. In practice, this means the husband must take the initiative to establish an ideal marriage, where both are in unity and agreement.
There is a right way and a wrong way to accomplish this. The carnal method is to beat one’s wife into subjection so that she will be too afraid to disagree. A “softer” but yet carnal way is to intimidate one’s wife into agreeing. This is done by assuming the other is wrong when there is disagreement, and by “patiently” coaxing and tutoring the other until the other comes to see one’s point of view.
True unity is not based on convincing the other to change his or her view, but in both parties seeking God to find the answer. This requires both parties to have the ability to hear God’s voice, and both must have confidence that this is the case. Only then can both parties trust the other’s revelation and not become upset or angry when a disagreement arises. Instead, they see the disagreement as evidence of each one’s partial understanding, and so they seek God together until the full unifying revelation is imparted to them.
No marriage starts out in such an ideal condition. The ideal is the goal, if not the reality. We come into this world as carnal beings, saddled with Adam’s sin and diseased with mortality. Only by growing in grace can we come to spiritual maturity, which is the basis also for the ideal marriage. And the fact that both parties in marriage must reach this state of spiritual maturity makes such ideal marriages quite rare.
The point of this discussion is to show the ramifications of God’s creation of man and woman to express the divine image and likeness. It is plain that God is both male and female. Furthermore, God’s male side is in agreement with God’s female side. There is no disunity or conflict. Both sides are always right, so authority is irrelevant. God’s male side never has to “pull rank” over the female side and overrule her. The statement in Genesis 1:28, given equally to Adam and Eve, to “rule” the earth applies also to the male and female sides of God.
When God took Eve out of Adam in Genesis 2:22, it was the nearest simulation to the divine relationship between male and female. It was meant to express the unity between these two sides of God. “bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh” in Genesis 2:23 is an earthly expression denoting spiritual unity of substance and purpose alike.
As Scripture unfolds, we find that the patriarchs knew God primarily as a female known as El Shaddai, and only later as a male named Yahweh. El Shaddai is usually translated “God Almighty,” because the Hebrew word shad, means “breast,” and its root shuwd means “to swell up.” Hence, depending on its application, it can refer to a breast, pride, or power (“almighty”). Nonetheless, when we search for a name to describe the female aspect of God, the most obvious is El Shaddai, “God, The Breasted One.”
Since a child’s dominant nurturer is the mother for the first part of his life, we see this reflected also in El Shaddai’s dominance in the first 2½ millennia of Adamic history. It is only when we come to the time of Moses that the name Yahweh is revealed. So Moses tells us in Exodus 6:2, 3 (literal rendering):
2 God spoke further to Moses and said to him, “I am Yahweh; 3 and I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as El Shaddai; but by My name Yahweh I did not make Myself known to them.
Hence, the Lawgiver is Yahweh, but the divine Nurturer is El Shaddai. It is only when the creation “child” reaches a certain age that the Father comes to bring discipline and training in order to bring the child to maturity.
Throughout the book of Genesis, Moses inserted the name Yahweh, but it is apparent that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob knew God only by the name El Shaddai. When Moses compiled the book of Genesis, he took the liberty of inserting a name for God that was actually unknown to the patriarchs. This insertion surfaces in Genesis 17:1,
1 Now when Abram was ninety-nine years old, Yahweh appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am El Shaddai…”
Moses tells us that Yahweh identified Himself as El Shaddai! This tells us clearly that Yahweh and El Shaddai are the same God, but reveal themselves under different names and revelations. Hence, we are not to view the two as distinct individuals, but as an echad, a collective unit ("one flesh" Genesis 2:24; "one people" Genesis 11:6; "one company" Genesis 32:8; "The Lord is one" Deuteronomy 6:4).
The age-old question, of course, is still this: Are there three Gods in one? Or is there one God is three? Are there three Gods in one family, or one God having three distinct manifestations/callings/purposes? The concept of the Trinity tends to affirm three Gods in one, although the old song tells us “God in three Persons, blessed Trinity,” which might be taken as God in three manifestations.
El Elyon, the Most High God
The unity of Yahweh and El Shaddai, as written in Genesis 17:1, is perhaps one reason why El Shaddai has never been part of the Trinity in Church doctrine. After all, to include El Shaddai might make the Godhead into a divine Quartet!
But the relevant question here is this: Who is the Father? What is His name? Most people assume that the Father is Yahweh, but Scripture says that Yahweh is my Yeshua (Exodus 15:2; Psalm 118:14; Isaiah 12:2). It was said that Jesus was “the Son of the Most High God” (Mark 5:7) and “Son of the Highest” (Luke 1:32). The Most High God is El Elyon, who is identified in Genesis 14:18 as the God of Shem and in the next verse as the God of Abraham.
El Elyon, The Most High God, ought to be identified as the “Father” in the Trinitarian concept. Yahweh is the Son—or at least became the Son when incarnated in Bethlehem. The Holy Spirit is perhaps the Agent of Begetting, or at least the Executor of Divine Purpose, “for that which has been conceived in her [Mary] is of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1:20).
Male and Female Sacrifices
When a ruler sinned, he had to bring a male goat as an offering (Leviticus 4:22, 23). When any of the individual people sinned, they had to bring a female goat as an offering (Leviticus 4:27, 28). All of these offerings/sacrifices are types of Christ, fulfilled in His death on the cross. Hence, speaking from this legal (spiritual) standpoint, Jesus was both male and female, being both the male and the female goats.
Certainly, Yahweh has become my Yeshua, but it seems equally the case that El Shaddai has also become my Yeshua. How? In the sense that every child is the expression of both parents. We have no biblical statement (that I know of) telling us that El Shaddai has become my Yeshua; but we read that “Yahweh said I am El Shaddai” (Genesis 17:1).
So if we were to express God as a Trinity, their names are: El Elyon, Yahweh-Shaddai-Yeshua-Jesus, and the Holy Spirit who remains nameless, but who carries the office of Paraclete, “Comforter, Helper, Advocate in a court of law”), as we read in John 14:26; 15:26).
To summarize, God created male and female to express His complete image and likeness. This tells us that God is complete, being both male and female, and that we are incomplete as either one or the other. When God separated Eve from Adam, He caused both to be incomplete but created marriage to re-establish the complete image of God. Not all men and women are married, of course, and even those who are married seldom reach the place of spiritual maturity where they can be “one flesh” as God intended—that is, to be in agreement, or at least to have the ability to come into agreement.
The truth emerges as we study this that the different names of God express different parts of the divine nature, including male and female. The role that these names play in the doctrine of the Trinity is the theologian’s dilemma. But one fact seems to emerge through all of this: God is a social Being. God’s different sides, or parts, are in a relationship, and that this relationship finds its earliest counterpart in the idea of marriage.
Hence, as we study this divine relationship, we can find instruction about how what an ideal marriage looks like. It is two people in agreement—not one in perfect submission and obedience to the other, as is so often taught in the Church.
Dr. Stephen Jones