Re: An Early Trinity

George Murphy (
Sat, 11 Sep 1999 08:28:27 -0400

Dick Fischer wrote:
> Although it is impossible to be sure due to the scarcity of historical
> evidence
> prior to 2,000 BC, the Accadian "trinity" at the very beginning consisted
> of "ilu"
> the father-god in heaven, which is the root of the Canaanite "el" that we
> see in
> elohim and El Shadai - it is the Hebrew word for God. Ilu also is the root
> of "the
> Islamic "allah." The second was "Ea," possibly an early form of "Emmanuel,"
> and Enlil which means lord or king of the "air," "breath" or "spirit." It
> is hard
> to miss the similarity

The idea that Ea is "possible an early form of Emmanuel" has about as much
plausibility as the suggestion that the name of my daughter Katherine is derived from
the Egyptian ka. It's reminds me of the old joke about British Israelites: The name
MacInthosh is the derived from Moses by dropping "oses" and adding "acinthosh". You're
simply reading Christian trinitarian ideas back into the Babylonian pantheon via
extremely dubious etymology.


> Although there isn't enough evidence I can make a strong case for it, there
> likewise isn't enough contrary evidence that it can be denied vociferously
> either.
> Further, I think Genesis 1:26 leaves the door open on something other than
> strict
> monotheism in early Hebrew thought: "And God said, Let us make man in our
> image, after our likeness ..."

Certainly the early Hebrews were not strict monotheists because they thought
that there were other deities besides Yahweh. Properly speaking they were henotheists,
believing that only one God was to be worshipped. (E.g., the 1st Commandment.) There
are several places in the Old Testament where the idea of a council of gods is clear
(e.g., I Kg.22:19-22, Ps.82:1). But that idea is quite different from the Christian
concept that God has a threefold identity. It is not wrong for Christians to understand
the creation of humanity in Genesis 1:26-28 as a work of the entire Trinity but we
should be clear that that is because we are reading the text in light of the New
In fact, excessive emphasis on the plural "let us make..." here might lead one
to the mistaken idea that _only_ the creation of humanity is a work of the Trinity and
that in all the other creative work only one person of the Trinity is acting.

George L. Murphy