Fragment of a medieval altarpiece, National Museum, photo sr. Amata J. Nowaszewska CSFN

“The expression Trinity does not appear literally in the Old Testament, but that does not mean there is no mention of God in the Trinity?,” writes Fr. Pawel Rytel-Andrianik, biblical scholar and publicist, head of the Polish section of Vatican Radio and the Vatican News, in a commentary for the Heschel Center of the Catholic University of Lublin, on Trinity Sunday of May 26.

First, the Old Testament firmly establishes the belief in one God, a fundamental truth: “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is the one Lord” (Deuteronomy 6:4). This truth aligns perfectly with the Christian understanding of the Trinity – God is one, yet exists in three distinct Persons.

Secondly, the New Testament repeatedly quotes the Old Testament to show that Jesus Christ is the announced Messiah and, even more, God. In the Gospel of St. John, for example, four quotations from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah point to Jesus as Messiah and God. This is one of them: “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness: Make straight the way of the Lord” (John 1:23). Literally, it says “for God.” God’s name in Hebrew – JAHWE – was used. Because John the Baptist prepared the way for God, pointing to Jesus, Jesus is the true God. All quotations from Isaiah in the Gospel of St. John point to Jesus as the Messiah and God.

Third, there are passages in the Old Testament that many interpret as a reference to the mystery of the Trinity. The first is at the very beginning of the Bible, in Genesis: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was without form or shape, with darkness over the abyss and a mighty wind sweeping over the waters: and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters” (Genesis 1:1-2). Already, the Church Fathers saw in the expression “Spirit of God” a reference to the Holy Spirit. Literally, it is written there: “he fluttered his wings.” Interestingly, the Holy Spirit is often shown in the form of a dove, which is very figurative and derives primarily from the scene of Jesus’ baptism, where the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus “in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you, I am well pleased.” (Luke 3:22).

Moreover, in the passage mentioned above from Genesis, the word “Elohim” is used to refer to God, a plural noun. In addition, in the verse Genesis 1:26, God says: “Let us make human beings in our image, after our likeness.” According to many commentators, this is the so-called pluralis deliberationis, a stylistic form expressing deliberation with Himself, and is in some way a reference to the three Persons of the Trinity.

Another interesting passage is God’s visit to Abraham in Genesis 18, where we read that “the Lord appeared to Abraham under the oaks of Mamre as he sat at the entrance to his tent in the hottest part of the day. Abraham, having looked, saw three men facing him. Seeing them, he bowed to the ground and said: “O Sir, if it pleases you, do not go on past your servant!” (Genesis 18:1-3). Some interpret that this passage is not about God and two angels but the three Persons of the Trinity.

In conclusion, the Old Testament does indeed contain references to the Trinity, as illuminated by the profound insights of the Church Fathers. Their interpretations guide us in seeing these references, enriching our understanding.