Of course, we do not believe in three gods! That belief would be very un-Jewish and in no uncertain terms should be called idolatry! The Torah (Five Books of Moses) clearly states in the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4) that there is only one God. However, there have been Jewish scholars from earlier generations who did not see a problem with God being understood as three-in-one.
For example, Jewish Theological Seminary’s Benjamin Sommer writes, “No Jew sensitive to Judaism’s own classical sources, however, can fault the theological model Christianity employs when it avows belief in a God who has an earthly body as well as a Holy Spirit manifestation, for that model…is a perfectly Jewish one.”
This is an astonishing statement, but the evidence in the Hebrew Scriptures and ancient Jewish tradition supports the idea. As Messianic Jews, we affirm that the New Testament reveals the mystery: God is three-in-one! Certainly, this is beyond our ability to truly comprehend, but as the prophet Isaiah writes,
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)
More importantly, the Bible uses the word echad, translated as “one” in the great Shema prayer, as a way to indicate a composite unity. Another example of composite unity is when God created Adam and Eve, the first husband and wife. The Bible describes their union in the following way,
“For this reason, a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24)
The “oneness” of the first couple was described as a composite unity. The term used is echad, the same Hebrew word used in Deuteronomy 6:4. This does not prove the triune nature of God, but challenges the idea that the term was always used to indicate singularity without some type of unity among equals.
By Jonathan Mann
Benjamin D. Sommer, The Bodies of God and the World of Ancient Israel, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 135.