A trinity of verses deny God being a man
by Ibn Anwar
Is it just mere coincidence that there are exactly three verses in the entire Old Testament or Hebrew Bible that negates God being a man and on the other end of the spectrum there is the idea that God is three persons as Trinitarians hold? I do not think it is a mere coincidence that we have it as such. I do not think that it is mere coincidence that one of the three verses expressly denies that God is both man and the son of man both of which are respectively associated with Jesus. It goes without saying that these verses strongly indicate that the Trinity and the idea that God incarnated into the man Jesus are doctrines that ae antithesis to God's nature.
The New Tesmanet describes Jesus as both man and the son of man in many places. Acts 2:22 makes it quite plain that Jesus was a man,
"Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know."
Notice that Peter is the one speaking here and he does not use the evangelist script that Jesus is god-man or man-god. Peter merely affirmed our position that Jesus was a man that God chose.
The term "Son of Man" occurs exactly 82 times in the four gospels and four additional times elsewhere in the New Testament - 30 times in Matthew, 14 times in Mark, 25 times in Luke, 13 times in John, 1 time in Acts, 1 time in Hebrews and 2 times in Revelations.
The frequency in which the term is used for Jesus in the Gospels is one of the reasons that have led Biblical scholars to consider it as a specific appelation or title for him. Many Christian scholars have even extended this view into the Old Testament and interpreting verses containing the words "Son of Man" as references to Jesus. For this reason I am curious to know why should Jesus be excluded from Numbers 23:19?
The verse reads,
"God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?" (Numbers 23:19)
The key part in the verse is, "לא איש אל ויכזב ובן־אדם ויתנחם" or "lo ish el bikhazab uben adam beyit nekham". The negation occurs at the beginning of the sentence with the word "לא" or lo which is similar with the Arabic negation la. What this literally means is "It is not true that God is a man and will lie and the son of man and He will change His mind". The negation is distributed to each phrase which then yields, "God is not a man and He does not lie, He is not the son of man and He does not repent."
As we have seen earlier Jesus is both man and the son of man. Verse 19 of Numbers 23 says that God is neither man nor the son of man. When we bring these two together do we not arrive at the conclusion that Jesus isn't God? There are basically three responses that Christian apologists may produce when cornered with this conundrum as far as my experience with them goes. I will list the three rebuttals that they resort to together with counter-rebuttals from my own.
1. First Christian Rebuttal:
The verse says that God is not a man and is not the Son of God, however, it does not say that God can never be a man or the Son of Man.
This rebuttal appeals to the tense used in the verse which is in the present. They basically postulate that God is saying that at that time(specifically) He is not a man. That does not mean that He can never be a man in the future.
What this argument fails to recognise is that the Old Testament is filled with verses that say that God is this or that and those verses remain true for eternity as Christians themselves will concede in their theology. What exactly do I mean? Let us take Deuteronomy 6:4 as an example.
"Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!"
To be consistent the proponents of the first rebuttal must now say that it is possible for God to be 1000 instead of echad(one) in the future if He so wishes. I do not think any reasonable Christian will agree to that.
Let's have a look at another verse.
You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God" (Exodus 20:4-5)
Does the verse say that "I, the Lord your God, will forever be a jealous God? No, it says "I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God. Does this mean that He can become less jealous or not jealous at all when it comes to idolatry and false worship in the future if He so wishes? No! The Bible says that God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow(Psalms 102:27)
2. Second Christian Rebuttal
God did not actually become man. What happened was that God manifested Himself in the flesh. So the verse does not contradict the fact that Jesus was both man and God at the same time.
This argument is favoured by apologists like VenomFangX. It basically postulates that God dwelt in the human cocoon made of flesh and that the flesh itself was not divine and God certainly did not transform into the flesh.
This idea was also appealed to by Dr. James White in a debate he had with Sami Zaatari on the divinity of Jesus on the 13th of November, 2008 at the Twynholm Baptist Church, London, UK. Sami Zaatari agued that God would have had to change His nature if He became man. Dr. James White argued against Sami's point saying that God Himself did not become man, but rather dwelt inside the human Jesus so He did not actually change His own nature. You can actually poke a lot of holes in this standard Trinitarian theological gymnastics, but I'm not going to bore you with the details. It is suffice to mention here that Dr. James White on another occassion somewhat admitted that the son of God(who is God) died, but the Father was there to look after the universe. He said this as a response to the Muslim argument that if Jesus(who is God according to Christians) died then God died and who was looking after the universe? Dr. James White mentioned this in a debate he had on a Christian radio based in London with the Muslim da'i(missionary) Abdullah Al-Andalus. What this implies is that James White has actually conceded that Jesus as the second person of the Trinity who is fully God himself actually died. This is also what Christian apologist Jay Smith said in a debate with Shabir Ally which you can watch here. Jay Smith simplysaid that, "I have no problem with God dying". Ergo, the death on the cross was not simply experienced by the flesh, but also by the divine part of Jesus. This position has to be accepted by Christians who take him as God so as to remain consistent with their theology as we shall see.
John 1 is perhaps the premier passage for Jesus worshippers to prove the divinityof Jesus. They say that the logos is actually Jesus and the logos is God. In that case Jesus is literally God in flesh because verse 14 says that the logos BECAME(egeneto) flesh. It does not say that the logos manifested in the flesh and the flesh then acted as a body that clothed some divine Spirit. To sum up, according to to Trinitarian belief God himself INCARNATED. As the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary says under incarnation, "(in Christianity) the act of God coming to earth in human form as Jesus." God became human according to Trinitarian interpretation of John 1:14 i.e. logos is God and logos became flesh(man) = God became man. *
So, the excuse produced by apologists like VenomFangX does not really hold water and Numbers 23:19 still stands a contradition to the idea that God became man.
3. Third Christian Rebuttal
The context shows that the verse is talking about man's limited and fickle human condition in that they lie and change their minds or require repentance for their actions.
The following is the context.
18. And he took up his parable, and said, Rise up, Balak, and hear; hearken unto me, thou son of Zippor:
19. God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?
20. Behold, I have received commandment to bless: and he hath blessed; and I cannot reverse it.
Yes, I will agree with the rebuttal that the context shows that it is talking about the human limitation and how God does not have those limitations i.e. lying and repenting. However, I fail to see how this negates the fact that the verse says "God is not a man .nor the son of man". In fact, I think the context further supports my position because lying and repenting are innate human conditions. It is because the nature of man contains the facility to lie and to repent that God is not a man! That is what the verse means. As the saying goes ?to err is human'. It is because God does not err that he is not human/man and it is because he is not man/human that he does not err! Some have tried to suggest that God can be human provided he becomes a perfect human who does not lie nor repent. It is to that effect that he became Jesus who was perfect and sinless. As a matter of fact, Jesus did repent according to the so called Lord's prayer(Matthew 6 & Luke 11) which he read and taught. Apologists would reply saying that Jesus himelf did not repent, but was actually teaching the disciples how to pray. To refute this excuse I will provide a simple analogy.
"James and Peter are swimming. James is teaching Peter how to swim in the pool."(courtesy of Gomerozdubar)
Does the above mentioning of teaching negate the fact that James is swimming? No, it does not.
The fact of the matter is that the verse clearly says that God is not a man and Jesus is a man and that means Jesus is not God. It also says God is not the son of man and Jesus was the son of man is repeated 82 times in the gospels which means that Jesus is no God. It's a very simple excercise and I truly believe any reasonable person will concede. The three rebuttals have been refuted and Numbers 23:19 stands as good proof for our case. Let us now proceed to the next verse.
First of all, let us recall what I said in the counter rebuttal just now.
"It is because the nature of man contains the facility to lie and to repent that God is not a man! That is what the verse means. As the saying goes ?to err is human'. It is because God does not err that he is not human/man and it is because he is not man/human that he does not err!"
Numbers 23:19 has it that, "God is not a man, for he does not lie nor the son of man for he does not repent.". Our second verse has it the other way around as if trying to reiterate what was previously said in Numbers. That verse is found in 1 Samuel 15:29 which reads,
"And also the Glory of Israel will not lie nor repent; for He is not a man(lo adam), that He should repent.'"
The above seems to agree with the third rebuttal that what is being focused on is the human condition of lying and repenting. As I also stated and let us reiterate one more time that God is not a man because He does not lie nor repent and he does not lie nor repent because He is not man. In both instances the negation made is between the referent God and the referent man i.e. they are not the same. God is not a man(lo ish and lo adam).
The third verse is even more clear and the excuse given by rebuttal three can't even be used because it says,
"I will not execute the fierceness of Mine anger, I will not return to destroy Ephraim; for I am God, and not man, the Holy One in the midst of thee; and I will not come in fury." (Hosea 11:9)
Yes, the context is about Ephraim, but just because it's about Ephraim does not mean that the highlighted section is rendered moot. Genesis 17:1 says that God revealed Himself to Abram and made the statement, "I am the God Almighty". The context of Genesis 17 is the covenant and the sign of the covenant. That context does not negate the fact that God explicitly stated that He is God Almighty. Likewise, in all three verses whatver the context may be the important thing is that they all agree on one thing and that is GOD IS NOT A MAN.
Let us conclude this discussion with a comparison between the actual Trinity and the "trinity of negation for the Trinity".
Trinity : The Father + The Son + The Holy Spirit = One God because they are in agreement and share the same nature
Trinity of negation for the Trinity : Numbers 23:19(lo ish) + 1 Samuel 15:29(lo adam) + Hosea 11:9(lo ish) = Jesus is not God for they are in agreement that God is not a man and the nature of the verses are the same in that they negate that God is a man.
Trinity - Trinity of negation = No Trinity
* John 3:16 says that "For God so loved the world that he gave His only son". Christians take this to mean that Jesus was sent to die for humanity. The Son of God according to the Trinitarians convey Jesus' divinity which contrasts the terminology "Son of Man" which conveys Jesus' humanity. John 3:16 says that God gave His only son(Son of God) which is Jesus. If this refers to the crucifixion as the Christians would have it then the person who was crucified was indeed God because he is the "only son" which equals God whose purpose was to die for our sins. This debunks the excuse in rebuttal 2 as postulated by persons like VenomFangX because the idea is clearly that the one crucified was the Son who is God. This then strengthens our position that the Christian ideology contradicts the essence of Numbers 23:19, 1 Samuel 15:29 and Hosea 11:9.
G. Thiessen & A. Merz. The Historical Jesus: A Comparative Guide(1999). London: SCM Press. p. 550