You will not find the word “Trinity” in the pages of scripture. Yet the belief in a “Trinitarian” God is fundamental to Christian beliefs. The Greek word for trinity was first used in history by Theophilus of Antioch in 170 but it was not until the third century that the Church father Tertullian translated this word into the Latin “Trinitas” and it is from this that we get the English word Trinity. The word might be “relatively” new, but the foundations of the belief are found from the earliest times in the pages of scripture. What I mean is the very first verse. Let’s take a look:
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. (Gen 1:1-2)
The very first words of the bible are a key to understanding the nature of God. The Rabbinic understanding of the word “Beginning” is used many times synonymously with “Firstborn”. Therefore it would be correct to interpret this “In the Beginning, by the Firstborn, God created”.
Furthermore God is introduced with the noun “Elohim”; this is an interesting designation for God. If the writer had intended a singular noun they would have written El, and they did not even write Eloha, which would have referred to two, rather they used Elohim which refers to more than two. This being the case it would be normal for a plural noun to be followed by a verb which indicated plurality and yet the verb that follows “created” is singular in nature. So right in the first verse of the Bible we have three in one! Then later in the verse we have the Spirit of God active. The belief that the entire Trinitarian nature of the God head is active in creation is emphasized many times in scripture. Even a few verses later God says “Let US make man in OUR own image” (Gen 1:26). This is only one place where God refers to himself as plural.
It must be stressed however that belief in the triune God is not belief in Polytheism or more specifically tritheism (ie three Gods as is expressed in Mormonism). God is still one. Which is why we can along with the Jews and with Jesus strongly assert the Shema of Israel. God is one!
One interesting point to make concerning the Shema and the nature of the “oneness” of God is to do a word study on the word “one” -‘echad אָחַד . This word does indeed mean one, however it is also the same word used in Genesis 2:24 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”
This means the oneness of marriage is somehow analogous to the oneness of God. This is a profound observation both in relation to the thought that the unity of the Godhead does not preclude different parts and also a profound insight into the nature of the marriage covenant.