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“The Trinity is in the Old Testament present but concealed; The Trinity is in the New Testament present and revealed.” True enough, and equally true of how much the covenant name of God reveals of the Trinity in the respective Testaments.

When Moses first learns God’s name, there is something implicit in the conversation that implies threeness. Having heard God announce that He is Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh – I AM THAT I AM – the announcement of God’s name with the Hebrew consonants YHVH would have made Moses recognise that God’s name had to do with existence and being, and yet it was a new Hebrew word. God does not simply call Himself Ehyeh (I AM). Instead, God gives Moses a new Hebrew word that appears to be a concatenation of syllables from three other words: Yihyeh – He will be; Hoveh – He was; Hayah – He is. Moses would have heard in the word a strange future/past/present participle mixture. All three Hebrew tenses or aspects combine into one name. God is: in the future, the past, and the present.

This was implicit and concealed in the Hebrew name. But when the beloved disciple, John, writes the New Testament book of Revelation, he is happy to bring his Hebrew knowledge of the Name to his Greek readers. Instead of merely transliterating the name into a Greek form, something like “Ieova”, John translates the name altogether.

“Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come”, (Revelation 1:4) 

“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” (Revelation 1:8) 

“And they do not rest day or night, saying: “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!” (Revelation 4:8) 

“We give You thanks, O Lord God Almighty, The One who is and who was and who is to come, Because You have taken Your great power and reigned. (Revelation 11:17) 

Significantly, John places this translation alongside other markers of threeness: Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, and even the apparent reference to Father, Son, and Spirit in Revelation 1:4-6.

Here, it would seem, the New Testament is revealing what was present but concealed in the Old: the threefold existence of God contained in the name. Of course, this does not, by itself, communicate the idea of the Trinity. But it does show this much: God exists in three ways simultaneously. If His existence comprehends past, present and future simultaneously, God is able to exist in ways that seem paradoxical to us. If this is true of time; it may be equally true of personhood.

We cannot picture the simultaneity of past, present and future. We are able to hold each aspect in one moment, or imagine a kind of bird’s-eye view of the whole. But we have no concept of the simultaneity of past, present, and future. Similarly, we can picture each of the persons of the Trinity individually, and we can view God in our mind’s eye as One, but we cannot understand the simultaneous oneness and threeness of God’s Person.

In C. S. Lewis’ The Horse and His Boy, the young protagonist Shasta meets Aslan for the first time, and does not know if he is a threat or a help. He finally asks for Aslan’s name, and Lewis slips in the triune nature of God.

“Who are you?” asked Shasta.

“Myself,” said the Voice, very deep and low so that the earth shook: and again “Myself,” loud and clear and gay: and then the third time “Myself,” whispered so softly you could hardly hear it, and yet it seemed to come from all around you as if the leaves rustled with it.”

Who is God? He is. He is. He is.

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  1. Pingback: I AM: Trinity

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