John B. Metzger, Discovering the Mystery of the Unity of God: A Theological Study on the Plurality and Tri-unity of God in the Hebrew Scriptures. San Antonio, Tex.: 2010. 905 pp., cloth, $49.95.
In the view of some Christians today, the Old Testament is not as relevant to the Christian life as the New Testament is. As the thinking goes, the Old Testament contains some interesting stories about God and the Israelites and it contains some wonderful prophecies about the coming Messiah but it does not give us as much information about God as the New Testament does. Particularly, it does not tell us much about the relationship of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. It does not explain the Trinity to us. But, in the words of the author of Discovering the Mystery of the Unity of God, “God did not present Messiah in a vacuum” (309).
John B. Metzger is a graduate of Washington Bible College and Lancaster Bible College. He has served as a pastor and director of the Indian Bible Institute. He has also worked with Child Evangelism Fellowship and currently serves with Ariel Ministries.
Metzger gives his reasons for writing this book in the following paragraph:
Why is there a need for another book on the Trinity? There are so many books already published on that subject, so why do we need another one? The purpose of this book is twofold: first, all other books written today are written from a New Testament perspective; this one will be written from an Old Testament perspective exclusively. Secondly, in addressing the subject of the Trinity (tri-unity) we will interact with the Jewish belief that God is an absolute one and not a tri-unity. This book will show Christian and Jewish people alike that God did reveal Himself to mankind as a tri-unity, more accurately as a plural unity of one (xxiii).
Discovering the Mystery of the Unity of God is written to explain the Trinity to a Jewish and Christian audience from an Old Testament perspective and the book achieves its goal. From discussing the Old Testament names for God to looking at theophanies in the Pentateuch to discussing all the implications for the Shema and the deity of the Messiah, Metzger examines his topic inside and out.
The author’s chapter on the Angel of the Lord (Chapter 4) provides a good example of this thoroughness. The Angel of the Lord is considered by some scholars to be a messenger from the Lord Who is highly esteemed but not divine. Metzger, however, proves otherwise. The Angel of the Lord is no less than the Second Person of the Trinity in His pre-incarnate form. In His conversation with Gideon in Judges six, the Angel is called the Lord Himself (vv. 12, 14). In Genesis 16, as He was speaking with Hagar, Moses calls Him the Lord (vv. 7-13). In Joshua 5, the Heavenly Messenger is worshipped by Joshua and the Angel does not protest the worship (vv. 13-14).
This Being could be none other than the Son of God before He took on human form. The Angel of the Lord is never mentioned again after Jesus Christ lived on the earth, proving that Jesus and the Angel are one and the same. Also, if He is worshipped and called “Lord,” then by process of elimination, He must be the second member of the Trinity. The Father is the member who sends the Son and the Spirit is a member who never
appears in bodily form. The only One who would physically appear to men must be the pre-incarnate Christ (105-106).
All of this discussion about the Angel and, indeed, every facet of this book is written to prove that God is a plural unity of One and that this plural oneness is nothing new to the New Testament. It was revealed in the Old Testament long before the New Testament was ever inspired.
This book validates the [Old Testament], that it did not need additional New Covenant revelation to substantiate the plurality or tri-unity of God. It is the intent of this book to go one step further, demonstrating that the plurality and/or tri-unity of God was revealed but not as fully developed as it is in the New Covenant. Would Abraham, Moses, and David, to name a few see the tri-unity and understand it? Probably not. Would they have understood the plural unity of God? Yes! (20-21).
In regards to criticism for this work, if John Metzger wishes to reach a broad audience, he would have to shorten his book. An abridged version might be helpful. With 900 pages, 19 chapters, 8 appendixes, and 1,925 footnotes, the common reader would be overwhelmed with this material. He would also be uninterested by the title. Discovering the Mystery of the Unity of God does not provoke much curiosity at the local bookstore, although it does sum up the general idea of the book.
In summary, this is a good work on the subject of the Trinity in the Old Testament but it would be helpful to shorten it to appeal to a larger audience.
Review by Jeremy Cagle