THE TRINITY AND COMMON SENSE
The Trinity:---One of the basic teachings of Christianity, that remains an obstacle to Jewish appreciation of the teachings of the Catholic Church, is the Trinity. This is due partly to the realization that belief in the Trinity carries with it belief in Jesus, the Second Person of the Triune God, as the Messiah. We are prompted to deal with this principle on account of being faced with the query:---"How can you, in the name of common sense, believe that God can be one and three at the same time. It is the impossibility of this, that caused the Jewish Advocate of Boston to ask, editorially, "Can one equate the trinitarian God of Christianity with the affirmation of God's unity?"
The Trinity, as we Catholics are taught, is a mystery; and so are many things in the natural world, such as electricity, ether, and light, which we know only in their manifestations; not in substance, which is the vital, immaterial, elementary part of them.
The first thing that led this columnist to an appreciation of this basic Catholic principle, was the realization that "common sense" demands belief that a thing, any thing, is one from one aspect, and at the same time three from another aspect. But it cannot be both three and one from the same aspect. Electricity for instance which is one in its nature, is three in its manifestation,---motion, light, heat. This applies to any and every object, be it the hat worn by the inquirer, or the universe.
As an object it is one, a unity; yet to be an object it must have a triunity of dimensions,---length, breadth, thickness. Hence the hat, like the universe, is one and three at the same time, though from different aspects. In fact the inquirer would not have a hat or a head to put it on if it were not one and three, a unity and triunity. This three-in-one principle applies to God, Who is in His nature One, that is in substance; yet God is Three in Persons---Father, Son, Holy Spirit.
It is the implication embodied in belief in the Trinity, that Jesus is the Second Person therein, as claimed by Catholics, Who had come and fulfilled the Divine mission of Judaism, that prompts the denial of this principle. Jews fail to realize that Catholics are monotheists (worshippers of One Eternal God), not polytheists (worshippers of many Gods). They believe in but one God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; but that He functions as three distinct Persons,---Father, Son, Holy Spirit.
Isaiah, whom Jews recognize as "the greatest of the prophets," said that the "Son," Whom the Virgin" was to conceive, was to be "the Emmanuel" which means "God with us" (7:14), that He is "the Mighty God" (9:5) as Jesus is. This warranted St. Paul's declaration that Jesus is "God manifest in the flesh (1 Tim. 3:16).
Synagogue Jews, be they Orthodox, Reform, Conservative, or Reconstructionist, all say that the She-ma:---"Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is One God" (Deut. 6:4; St. Mark 12:29). This is the one and the only, universal profession of faith in Jewry; though its Interpretation ranges from belief in the Mosaic, eternal, transcendant, immanent God, to the Spinoza pantheistic concept of God. Jews appreciate not that the She-ma (hear) in Hebrew, being in the plural---"She-ma Yisrael Adoni Elohenu Adonai Ehod"---warrants the Catholic understanding that the God of Israel is a Triune God. Translated literally from the Hebrew, the She-ma is "Hear, O Israel, Jehovah (the Eternal One) our Gods is Jehovah a unity." The term Jehovah, in Hebrew Elohim, is plural. It appears 32 times in the first chapter of the Book of Genesis. It warrants the conclusion that the plurality of Persons in God must have been in the mind of Moses. Messiah Jesus, Who is God, would not have quoted the She-ma as the first commandment to the Scribes (St. Mark 12:29)---"the Lord our God, is One God"---in the Jewish misunderstanding of the monotheistic nature of God, which is a denial of the Trinity of God. Such a monotheistic profession on the part of Jesus Messiah would be a denial, inferentially, that He is God, the Second Person of the Trinity. If Jesus had made such a Jewish monotheistic claim when brought before the Sanhedrin, He would most likely not have been found guilty of "blasphemy."
In addition to the She-ma, the plural declarations of God Himself---"Let Us make man in Our image and likeness" (Gen. 1:26); "Let Us go down, and there confuse their language" (Gen. 11:7), answer in the affirmative the Jewish Advocate query: "Can one equate the trinitarian God of Christianity with the affirmation of God's unity"? Catholics have more than "common sense," and the Old Testament, to warrant belief in the Triunity in unity in God. They have the Divine say so of Christ Jesus; the infallible Church Catholic that Christ established; and the New Testament.