Keith G. Morehead
One of the words Trinitarians use to support the
concept of "three in one" in the Old Testament is "echad." Echad
(eh-'ghahd) is the Hebrew word translated one, only, and alone in the Old Testament. It
occurs 962 times in the Bible (Gesenius, pp. 28, 29) and is translated 903 times (by my
count) as the word one, five times as the word alone, and one time as the word only.
The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament has the
following information on the word echad:
This word occurs 960 times [there exists a discrepancy on
the number of occurrences between authors] as a noun, adjective, or adverb, as a cardinal
or ordinal number, often used in a distributive sense. It is closely identified with yahad "to
be united" and with ro'sh "first, head," especially in connection with the
"first day" of the month (Gen 8:13). It stresses unity while recognizing
diversity within that Oneness. Sometimes the phrase " as one man" can mean
"all at once" (Num 14:15), but when Gideon was told he would defeat Midian
" as one man" it probably meant " as easily as a single man" (Jud
6:16) The phrase can also refer to a nation aroused to take united action against gross
injustice (Jud 20:8; I Sam 11:7). Zephaniah's mention of people serving God "with one
shoulder" (3:9) likely means "shoulder to shoulder," solidly united.
Likewise in Ex 24:3 "with one voice" expresses that all Israel was involved in
entering into the Covenant with Yahweh. The concept of unity is related to the tabernacle,
whose curtains are fastened together to form one unit (Ex 26:6, 11; 36:13). Adam and Eve
are described as "one flesh" (Gen 2:24), which includes more than sexual unity.
In Gen 34:16 the men of Shechem suggest intermarriage with Jacob's children in order to
become "one people." Later, Ezekiel predicted that the fragmented nation of
Israel would someday be reunited, as he symbolically joined two sticks (37:17). Once again
Judah and Ephraim would be one nation with one king (37:22). Abraham was viewed as
"the one" from whom all the people descended (Isa 51:2; Mal 2:15), the one
father of the nation. Diversity within unity is also seen from the fact that `echad has
a plural form, `ahadim. It is translated "a few days" in Gen 27:44;
29:20, and Dan 11:20. In Gen 11:1 the plural modifies "words": "the whole
earth used the same language and the same words." Apparently it refers to the same
vocabulary, the same set of words spoken by everyone at the tower of Babel. The first
"same" in Gen 11:1 is singular , analogous to "the same laws" of the
Passover applying to native-born and foreigner (Ex 12:49; cf. Num 15:16), or to the
"one law" of sure death for approaching the Persian king without invitation (Est
4:11). In the famous Shema of Deut 6:4, "Hear, O Israel....the LORD is one," the
question of diversity within unity has theological implications. Some scholars have felt
that, though "one" is singular, the usage of the word allows for the doctrine of
the Trinity. While it is true that this doctrine is foreshadowed in the OT, the verse
concentrates on the fact that there is but one God and that Israel owes it exclusive
loyalty to him (Deut 5:9; 6:5)" (Harris, Archer, Waltke, Volume 1, p.30).
- A second reference on echad states:
A numeral having the power of an adjective. 1. The same,
Genesis 40:5, Job 31:15. 2. First, but only so used in counting the days of the
months, Ezra 10:16, 17; in counting years, Daniel 9:1,2, Ezra 1:1. In other places as
Genesis 1:5, one does not lose the common idea of a cardinal, and the numbers follow one
another as in Latin unus, alter, tertius. 3. some one, "some one of the
people;" "no one." 4. it acts the part of an indefinite article, especially
in the later Hebrew, 1 Kings 20:13, "a certain prophet;" Daniel 8:3, "a
ram," 1 Kings 19:4. So also when one precedes, e.g. "a certain holy one,"
i.e. angel Daniel 8:13. Sometimes also by a genitive "one of the cisterns," i.e.
some cistern, Genesis 37:20; Job 2:10. 5. one only of its kind, Job 23:13;
Ezekiel 7:5, Canticles 6:9. 6. When repeated it is one...another, Exodus 17:12;
18:3. It even occurs three times repeated, 1 Samuel 10:3; 13:17, 18. Also distributively
of individuals, Number. 13:2, "ye shall send one man to a tribe;" Numbers 34:18.
7. As one man, i.e. together. Ezra 2:64, "the whole congregation
together;" Ezra 3:9; 6:20; Ecclesiastes 11:6, "both alike." Also i.q.
"together, unitedly," Isaiah 65:25; in the same sense is said Judges 20:8; 1
8. For one time, once, 2 Kings 6:10; Psalms 62:12. 9. (a) i.q. No.
8, Num. 10:4. (b) Suddenly, Pro. 28:18. (c) i.q. altogether, Jer. 10:8. 10.
another, one by one
, Isa 27:12, and Ecc. 7:27, one after another..." (Gesenius,
The chief application of this interpretation by Trinitarians is in
the Shema found in Deuteronomy 6:4:
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one
Hebrew: Shema Israel, Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai echad.
They believe that since elohim is a uniplural noun describing the three
members of the Trinity as the one God, and echad is a uniplural adjective
describing several items in one unit or group, that the Shema is a perfect description of
the triune God. The Trinitarian interpretaition results in Deuteronomy 6:4 ceasing to be a
verse supporting the onliness of God; it becomes a verse portraying the characteristics of
their triune God. They interpret it to say:
Hear O Israel, our three separate Jehovahs,
is one unit of Jehovah.
- Trinitarian application:
Genesis 2:24: Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother,
and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one (echad) flesh.
- Oneness reply:
The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (TWOT) states:
"Adam and Eve are described as "one flesh"(Genesis 2:24), which includes
more than sexual unity" but when we use 1 Corinthians 6:16 as a cross reference, it
appears that it means exactly sexual unity causing them to be "one
What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for
two, saith he, shall be one flesh.
- Trinitarian application:
And Moses came and told the people all the words of
the LORD, and all the judgments: and all the people answered with one
- Oneness reply:
One what? One person's reply? No! One voice. Does "one
voice" being heard mean that of "all the people" there was only one
individual speaking? Of course not! It is simply understood to be the voice of many people
speaking in unison so that you heard one sound. In this text using the word echad,
does "one" really mean "one" in the context that it is meant to be
- Trinitarian application:
And they came unto the brook of Eshcol, and cut down
from thence a branch with one
cluster of grapes, and they bare it
between two upon a staff.
- Oneness reply:
Again, you must ask yourself the question: One what? One
grape? No. One cluster of grapes. Is one cluster of grapes the same as one grape?
Absolutely not! In addition to that, the word here is grapes (plural). If echad was used
in reference to the word grapes, the phrase would be nonsensical. In the phrase, "one
cluster," does one sufficiently describe what the numeral "one" is supposed
to describe? Without a doubt!
- The majority of texts are similar:
And LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon
Adam, and he slept: and he took one
(echad) of his ribs.
How many ribs? Maybe God took a single rack of ribs (As you would
receive a rack of barbecue ribs in a restaraunt).
And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son
Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a
burnt offering upon one
(echad)of the mountains which I will tell thee of.
- How many mountains did Abraham go to?
And make one (echad) cherub on the one (different
word) end and the other cherub on the other end.
- How many cherubs on one side?
And he shall take of the congregation of the
children of Israel two kids of the goats for sin offering, and one (echad) ram for a burnt
How many rams? Maybe God meant a "whole herd"? He said one;
Trinitarians claim that one is supposed to mean a group.
Numbers 10:4 And if they blow but with one (echad) trumpet,
then the princes, which are heads of the thousands of Israel, shall gather themselves
- Were they supposed to blow with an orchestra of trumpets in unison?
Of the 943 times (by my count) echad is translated
"one," it is translated to indicate a single character 901 times. In the
remaining instances when it is involved in describing a group effort, it still means one.
In reference to the Shema, the claim that the linking of
the word Elohim and echad in the same statement indicate
plurality of God is totally unfounded. So much bias has been infused into that statement
that the accuracy of it is negligible. It becomes a Trinitarian doctrinal statement
instead of a Biblical description of God. Deuteronomy 6:4 is speaking of
ONE WHAT? ONE
This is made clear by the scribe's reply to Jesus' statement that the Shema was
the most important commandment in Mark 12:32, "Master, thou hast said the truth:
there is one God; and there is none other but he.
" If elohim or echad are
referring to more than one of anything, they are referring to more than one GOD, which
would make Trinitarians polytheists, or at least tritheists. Remember, for elohim to
indicate any plurality, it would indicate a plurality of gods; not one God in three but
three gods. If the Bible could be quoted as saying one gods, Trinitarians may have
a legitimate argument, but that very statement would be contradictory. It would have to
declare "one Trinity."
Keith G. Morehead,
of Trinitarian Thought
, Oneness Ministries, 1988.
R. Laird Harris, Gleason L Archer Jr., Bruce
K Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament.
H. W. F. Gesenius, Translated by Samuel
Prideaux Tregelles, LL.D., Gesenius' Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament (Baker
Book House, copyright 1979).