Question 9 – How Many Persons Are There in the Godhead?
“For there are three that testify.” – 1 Jo 5:7 ESV
For there are three that bear record in heaven, That is, that Jesus is the Son of God. The genuineness of this text has been called in question by some, because it is wanting in the Syriac version, as it also is in the Arabic and Ethiopic versions; and because the old Latin interpreter has it not; and it is not to be found in many Greek manuscripts; nor cited by many of the ancient fathers, even by such who wrote against the Arians, when it might have been of great service to them: to all which it may be replied, that as to the Syriac version, which is the most ancient, and of the greatest consequence, it is but a version, and a defective one. The history of the adulterous woman in the eighth of John, the second epistle of Peter, the second and third epistles of John, the epistle of Jude, and the book of the Revelations, were formerly wanting in it, till restored from Bishop Usher’s copy by De Dieu and Dr. Pocock, and who also, from an eastern copy, has supplied this version with this text. As to the old Latin interpreter, it is certain it is to be seen in many Latin manuscripts of an early date, and stands in the Vulgate Latin edition of the London Polyglot Bible: and the Latin translation, which bears the name of Jerom, has it, and who, in an epistle of his to Eustochium, prefixed to his translation of these canonical epistles, complains of the omission of it by unfaithful interpreters. And as to its being wanting in some Greek manuscripts, as the Alexandrian, and others, it need only be said, that it is to be found in many others; it is in an old British copy, and in the Complutensian edition, the compilers of which made use of various copies; and out of sixteen ancient copies of Robert Stephens’s, nine of them had it: and as to its not being cited by some of the ancient fathers, this can be no sufficient proof of the spuriousness of it, since it might be in the original copy, though not in the copies used by them, through the carelessness or unfaithfulness of transcribers; or it might be in their copies, and yet not cited by them, they having Scriptures enough without it, to defend the doctrine of the Trinity, and the divinity of Christ: and yet, after all, certain it is, that it is cited by many of them; by Fulgentius (z), in the beginning of the “sixth” century, against the Arians, without any scruple or hesitation; and Jerom, as before observed, has it in his translation made in the latter end of the “fourth” century; and it is cited by Athanasius about the year 350; and before him by Cyprian, in the middle, of the “third” century, about the year 250; and is referred to by Tertullian about, the year 200; and which was within a “hundred” years, or little more, of the writing of the epistle; which may be enough to satisfy anyone of the genuineness of this passage; and besides, there never was any dispute about it till Erasmus left it out in the, first edition of his translation of the New Testament; and yet he himself, upon the credit of the old British copy before mentioned, put it into another edition of his translation. The heavenly witnesses of Christ’s sonship are,
the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost. The “Father” is the first Person, so called, not in, reference to the creatures, angels, or men, he is the Creator, and so the Father of; for this is common to the other two Persons; but in reference to his Son Jesus Christ, of whose sonship he bore witness at his baptism and transfiguration upon the mount. The “Word” is the second Person, who said and it was done; who spoke all things out of nothing in the first creation; who was in the beginning with God the Father, and was God, and by whom all things were created; he declared himself to be the Son of God, and proved himself to be so by his works and miracles; see Mark 14:61, &c. and his witness of himself was good and valid; see John 8:13; and because it is his sonship that is, here testified of, therefore the phrase, “the Word”, and not “the Son”, is here used. “The Holy Ghost” is the third Person, who proceeds from the Father, and is also called the Spirit of the Son, who testified of, Christ’s sonship also at his baptism, by descending on him as a dove, which was the signal given to John the Baptist, by which he knew him, and bare record of him, that he was the Son of God. Now the number of these witnesses was three, there being so many persons in the Godhead; and such a number being sufficient, according to law, for the establishing of any point: to which may be added, that they were witnesses in heaven, not to the heavenly inhabitants, but to men on earth; they were so called, because they were in heaven, and from thence gave out their testimony; and which shows the firmness and excellency of it, it being not from earth, but from heaven, and not human, but divine; to which may be applied the words of Job, in Job 16:19; it follows,
and these three are one; which is to be understood, not only of their unity and agreement in their testimony, they testifying of the same thing, the sonship of Christ; but of their unity in essence or nature, they being the one God. So that, this passage holds forth and asserts the unity of God, a trinity of persons in the Godhead, the proper deity of each person, and their distinct personality, the unity of essence in that they are one; a trinity of persons in that they are three, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, and are neither more nor fewer; the deity of each person, for otherwise their testimony would not be the testimony of God, as in 1John 5:9; and their distinct personality; for were they not three distinct persons, they could not be three testifiers, or three that bare record. This being a proper place, I shall insert the faith of the ancient Jews concerning the doctrine of the Trinity; and the rather, as it agrees with the apostle’s doctrine in words and language, as well as in matter. They call the three Persons in the Godhead three degrees: they say, “Jehovah, Elohenu (our God), Jehovah, Deut 6:4; these are the three degrees with respect to this sublime mystery, in the beginning Elohim, or God, created, Gen 1:1, &c.” And these three, they say, though they are distinct, yet are one, as appears by what follows: “come see the mystery of the word; there are three degrees, and every degree is by itself, yet they are all one, and are bound together in one, and one is not separated from the other.” Again, it is said, “this is the unity of Jehovah the first, Elohenu, Jehovah, lo, all of them are one, and therefore: called one; lo, the three names are as if they were one, and therefore are called one, and they are one; but by the revelation of the Holy Spirit it is made known, and they by the sight of the eye may be known, אחד אלין דתלתא, “that these three are one”: and this is the mystery of the voice which is heard; the voice is one, and there are three things, fire, and Spirit, and water, and all of them are one in the mystery of the voice, and they are but one: so here, Jehovah, Elohenu, Jehovah, they are one, the three, גוונין, forms, modes, or things, which are one.” Once more, “there are two, and one is joined unto them, and they are three; and when the three are one, he says to them, these are the two names which Israel heard, Jehovah, Jehovah, and Elohenu is joined unto them, and it is the seal of the ring of truth; and when they are joined as one, they are one in one unity.” And this they illustrate by the three names of the soul of man; “the three powers are all of them one, the soul, spirit, and breath, they are joined as one, and they are one; and all is according to the mode of the sublime mystery,” meaning the Trinity. [Gill]
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” – Mat 28:19 ESV
Go ye therefore, Into all the world; some into one place, and some into another; since his power and authority, and so now the commission he gave them, reached every where: before it was confined to Judea, but now it is extended to all the nations of the world; see Matt 10:6,
and teach all nations; Jews and Gentiles, first the one, and then the other, the doctrines of the Gospel, and the ordinances of it; whatever they had learned from Christ, or were ordered by him, or “disciple all nations”: make them disciples by teaching them; or, as the Persic version, by way of explanation, adds, “bring them to my religion and faith”: not that they were able to do this of themselves, but they were to teach men externally, or outwardly minister the word, whilst the Spirit of God internally applied it, and taught, and made men true disciples of Christ: and they are such, who have learned to know themselves, their sin, and lost estate by nature; to deny themselves, both sinful and righteous self; who have learnt to know Christ, and the way of righteousness, peace, pardon, life, and salvation by him; and who are taught and enabled to part with all for Christ, and to bear all for his sake, and to believe in him, and give up themselves to him, and follow him whithersoever he goes:
baptizing them; not all nations, for the antecedent to the relative “them”, cannot be “all nations”; since παντα τα εθνη, the words for “all nations”, are of the neuter gender, whereas αυτους, “them”, is of the masculine: nor can it be thought that it should be the mind of Christ, that all the individuals of all nations should be baptized, as Heathens, Turks, and Jews; but μαθευτας, “disciples”, supposed and contained in the word μαθετευσατε, “teach”, or “make disciples”; such as are taught, and made disciples by teaching, or under the ministry of the word by the Spirit of God: Christ’s orders are to “baptize”: טבלו, “dip” them, as Munster’s Hebrew Gospel renders it; that is, in water, which, though not expressed, is implied; for with no other baptism could the apostles baptize: not with the Holy Ghost, and with fire; for this was Christ’s peculiar prerogative; but with water, which they in obedience to this commission practised, Acts 8:36, and which was to be done
in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; by the authority of these three divine persons, who all appeared, and testified their approbation of the administration of this ordinance, at the baptism of Christ: and as they are to be invocated in it, so the persons baptized not only profess faith in each divine person, but are devoted to their service, and worship, and are laid under obligation to obedience to them, Hence a confirmation of the doctrine of the Trinity, there are three persons, but one name, but one God, into which believers are baptized; and a proof of the true deity both of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; and that Christ, as the Son of God, is God; since baptism is administered equally in the name of all three, as a religious ordinance, a part of divine instituted worship, which would never be in the name of a creature. This is the first, and indeed the only, place in which the Trinity of persons is expressed in this order, and in the selfsame words. Galatinus pretends, that the ancient Jews used the same way of speaking. It would be well if proof could be made of it: he asserts it to be in Zohar on Deut 6:4, and in the Targum of Jonathan ben Uzziel on Isa 6:3. In the former he says, it is expressed thus, “hear, O Israel; the Lord”, he is called “the Father; our God”, he is called the Son; “is one Lord”, this is “the Holy Ghost”, who proceeds from both; and again, by the same R. Simeon, it is said, “holy”, this is אב, “the Father”; “holy”, this is בן, “the Son”; “holy”, this is הקדש רוח, “the Holy Ghost”: and in the latter after this manner, “Holy Father, Holy Son, and Holy Holy Ghost”; but no such words are now to be found in either of these places. He affirms, that he himself saw a copy of Jonathan’s Targum that had these words. The Jews often speak of the Tetragrammaton, or name of four letters, the name Jehovah, which they say is not lawful to be pronounced; and also of the name of twelve letters, which the above writer makes to be “Father, Son, and Holy Ghost”; and of forty two letters, which from a book called Gale Razia, he says is, “Father God, Son God, Holy Ghost God, three in one, and one in three;” which in the Hebrew language make up so many letters; but this wants better authority. [Gill]
Answer – There are three persons in the Godhead: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one God, the same in essence, equal in power and glory.