Trinitarian Forgery and the Zohar?

We recently saw Dr Ben Witherington affirm the Jews of Jesus’ time had no concept of the Trinity. To supplement this we can talk about Dr William Lane Craig’s well noted affirmation that the Old Testament does not teach the Trinity doctrine.

In response to the post featuring Dr Witherington’s statement I saw this comment:

Nonsense. The Zohar talks about God being three in one.

The Zohar is attributed by some to a  rabbi who lived in the 2nd and 3rd century although the book only emerged about 1000 years after being kept secret. In all reality it probably wasn’t written by somebody in the 2nd/3rd century. Scholars think it was written by a rabbi in the 11th century.

The notion the Trinity doctrine was taught in a 2nd/3rd century Jewish commentary would be anachronistic considering what Oxford University’s Prof. Mark Edwards has said about the late development of the Trinity doctrine.

We must also consider whether the claims about the Trinity doctrine and the Zohar are actually fraudulent or not:

This is a trinitarian related fraud, possibly created by the founder of the American Board of Missions to the Jews (now known as the Chosen People Ministries), Itsak Leib Jaszovics, alias “Rabbi Leopold Cohn,”… The claim that the Zohar’s commentary on Deuteronomy 6:4 confirms the Christian doctrine of the Trinity is based on a spurious passage attributed to that volume. It appears in Cohn’s tract, Do Christians Worship Three Gods? (pp. 4-5), published by the Chosen People Ministries. On the basis of his forgery, Cohn concluded that “According to the Zohar the Messiah is not only called Jehovah but is a very part of the triune Jehovah” (p. 5). This forgery is also perpetuated in the literature of the Jews for Jesus missionary organization. Using Cohn’s spurious passage, Arnold Fruchtenbaum…Fruchtenbaum quotes faithfully Cohn’s fraudulent passage. However, a simple examination of the relevant Zohar commentary on the Shema reveals that no such text exists in the Zohar. It should be noted that many other missionary organizations have quoted Cohn’s forgery in their literature. [Gerald Sigal]

Categories: Islam

18 replies

  1. In my readings of the Zohar, while there are texts that can plausibly loan themselves to something like a multipersonal conception of God, I have never found anything that can really be considered Trinitarian. There are portions of texts that initially might seem to have the potential to loan themselves to a Trinitarian reading, but they quickly give way to something else when one reads further.

    Regarding specifically how the shema` is treated therein, there is a text that might initially strike some as potentially Trinitarian; I cover it, briefly, here…

    …but if one reads on beyond that excerpt, the whole thing seems to unravel, insofar that even if the text is treated as alluding to a multipersonal conception of God, the number of persons therein would multiply beyond three.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Denis, much appreciated.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Yes indeed, thanks Denis. I’m looking forward to your first article on Blogging Theology!


    • As a quick disclaimer, I’m far from any sort of expert on the Zohar, so there may be something I’ve missed. I have had the somewhat maddening experience of seeing lots of people claim the Trinity is in the Zohar without citing where (obviously, as a Trinitarian who delves into the Zohar from time to time, I’d love to see such a text). Perhaps the safest way to put it is this: if someone asserts the Zohar refers to the Trinity, they should attempt to give a clear reference to where (e.g. list the volume and ‘daf’ [“page”], or, if going by the system of division in the Sūlam, the precise parsha and paragraph number), so that others might examine it.

      To specifically Mr. Williams, my apologies for not posting anything yet. I’ve been very busy. I may post something light, soon, though…


    • Dennis,
      Yes, thanks for your comments.

      But I am now just wondering how can one could maintain a belief in Trinitarianism when you yourself admit that there is no clear mention of it in the Zohar, and as many top scholars have stated, (along with Dr Ben Witherington and now Dr. WLC) that the Jews had no concept of Trinity and the OT does not teach any such doctrine.

      I would think that given the lack of strong support for such a doctrine in the OT and Jewish belief, one would have to re-evaluate the acceptance of a doctrine that disagrees with the absolute undivided unique oneness of God.

      Does it not interest you that the Qur’an agrees with the nature of God as the early Jews understood it, while Paulinian Trinitarianism does not?


    • If understood properly the Zoharic expression is nowhere near the trinitarin concept. On previous paragraph in that same volume the Zohar declares that God has no comparable to Him (214) / 242b 1 and that God image, which is in Malchut sefira, does not belong in the place of Malchut, but not the essence of Malchut itself. Thus it appears to God’s creature according to their vision and imagination, meaningful only in the recipients themselves (216) /242b 3. Stark difference with trinitarian creed.

      Also trinitarian who use Kabbalah to argue that Judaism support trinity doctrine must remember that this element is post talmudic period and that those Zoharic element may have been influenced by trinity doctrine not the other way around.


  2. The doctrine of trinity is completely illogical because it imposes a brute fact onto God.

    If someone asks a Trinitarian as to why God has this three person composition, the answer I assume would be that is simply the way He is. Fully stop.

    Thus it is a brute fact. And one imposed on God. Thus God is no longer the ultimate since He is not the ultimate explanation.

    Another way of saying this is that the brute fact of the trinity can just as much say that God is made of 472 persons or 834,912,456,341,477 persons or any other number along the infinite number line.

    Again it is patently illogical.

    So, let us who are born with being taught that doctrine to summon up the courage and the love of truth and goodness to release it’s hold on us and on our afterlife.

    I pray for the best for my Trinitarian brothers and sisters. I want the best for their afterlife.


    • Omer

      “The doctrine of trinity is completely illogical because it imposes a brute fact onto God.

      If someone asks a Trinitarian as to why God has this three person composition, the answer I assume would be that is simply the way He is. Fully stop.

      Thus it is a brute fact. And one imposed on God. Thus God is no longer the ultimate since He is not the ultimate explanation.”

      So when muslims claim that allah is merciful, then it means he can no longer be the ultimate because it is imposing a brute fact on him?


  3. Hi Frank,

    Bo, the analogy does not work. God chooses to be merciful. In Trinitarian Christianity, God does not choose to be three.

    If he chose to be three, then He would not be three, but would be one (before he became three).


    • The quran says that allah is merciful, not that he chooses to be merciful. You are rapidly falling into the tawheed trap – allah is so unknowable that you simply cannot know his nature. You could be worshiping an evil demon according to the logical outcome of islamic theology.


  4. No, I am not saying Allah is unknowable. Of course, He is infinite and transcendent and it is ipso facto impossible for the finite to encompass the infinite and the transcendent.

    God is merciful because He chooses to be merciful.

    There are numerous….yes numerous verses that indicates God’s will is determinative of all. That He chooses to be merciful, etc…makes Him good but He was not born good….He was not made good…He is not good because of brute fact….

    It is not as if we ask God why are you merciful, why are you just, ….etc…and that He will respond….Gee…I don’t know why….I am trying to figure that out myself why I am this way.

    God is the ultimate explanation of all that is…otherwise He is not God (the cause of all existence)…He is then just a glorified Zeus, or a glorified Superman.


    • Omer

      Judging by your waffling, you must be confused. I am confused by what you just said. You said that you can know god, but you can’t know god – the tawheed trap in a nutshell.

      If allah is merciful only because he chooses to be, then he is not merciful. That is pretty straight-forward logic. Shrouding that fact in mumbo-jumbo, woo-woo doesn’t change that.

      Awkwardly, your allah does not sound like the “simple” concept of god that muslims boast they possess.

      Tawheed trap.


  5. I am not confused Frank. God has taken it upon Himself to be merciful….this portion of the verse in quoted in 6:12 and repeated in 6:54.

    “Say, ‘To whom belongs all that is in the heavens and earth?’ Say, ‘To God. He has taken it upon Himself to be merciful. He will certainly gather you on the Day of Resurrection, which is beyond all doubt. Those who deceive themselves will not believe’”


    • Omer

      The biggest problem with your argument is that if god is debased by the “brute fact” of saying he is triune, then the same has to apply to stating the brute fact that he is one. You have made a critical error in reasoning.

      And you all but admit that you cannot know what kind of god you worship – he chooses to be merciful but not because of compassion since to say that would be to state a brute fact about him. In other words allah could act out of evil intentions – he could show mercy to people who do evil because that is his nature.

      Also, I have not called anything “crap”.


  6. Frank,

    In the reply I just sent, I forgot to mention that I wish all the best for you.

    I hope you reflect on the two verses in my post immediately above.

    And on the fact that what you call “crap” is the beautiful truth…it is the central idea in the Biblical scriptures.

    It is what all the prophets believed in. Everyone realizes that Abraham or Noah or Moses or any other prophet touched and chosen by God did not believe in the trinity.

    We will need to agree to disagree.

    I bid you peace.


    • @ Omer,

      who said “It is what all the prophets believed in. Everyone realizes that Abraham or Noah or Moses or any other prophet touched and chosen by God did not believe in the trinity.”

      They were not given the full revelation of all the bible as now constituted, including the NT.

      What they were required to believe only constitutes a part of what we are required to believe. We have a more fuller revelation of the triune nature of God and the redemptive acts of God in Jesus Christ.

      They could not have this and all the revelation that flowed from it before the incarnation.

      Progressive revelation.


  7. No one is a brute fact by just being one.

    That is what we call in philosophy a category mistake.

    You are contingent in that you exist and could have otherwise not existed.

    But the fact that you are one and not made up of 3 or 7 or 63,846,871,234,872,348,732,487,234 persons is not a brute fact…

    you are simply you….there is no way to break that down into a brute fact.

    again you are simply you. simple logic.


    • Omer

      That is a classic of circular reasoning encased in a thick gooey crust of special pleading. You still have to explain how the statement that allah is not a statement of brute act – you have refuted yourself.


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