The Only True God:
A Study of Biblical Monotheism
Eric H.H. Chang
To the eternal King,
the only God,
be honor and glory
forever and ever.
I wish to acknowledge with deep appreciation and gratitude the abundance of encouragement I have received, directly or indirectly, from the few hundred coworkers in our churches worldwide. Though they were initially surprised and even astonished when I first began to expound the Scriptures in the light of Biblical monotheism, they remained open-minded and supportive as well as being firmly determined to get to the truth as revealed in the Scriptures. Such open-mindedness and what might be described as “open-heartedness” is most certainly not something to be taken for granted, especially in the case of those who were nurtured from the beginning in trinitarianism (as I was). What I mean by “open-heartedness” is that I saw in them not only open-mindedness in the sense of being mentally or intellectually open but, beyond that, a deeper spiritual openness to God’s word and, above all, to the living God Himself. There seems to me to be no adequate explanation for this exceptional attitude other than that the grace of the one true God abounds towards them and fills them with a supernal love for Himself and His truth.
My heartfelt thanks are due also to Pastor Bentley Chan. He is a notable example of those to whom I refer above. He, moreover, already gave himself unsparingly to all the labor involved in the publication of my earlier book Becoming a New Person. Now, beyond all this, I once again have the privilege of his skilled and competent participation in getting this book to the publishers. He graciously accepted the arduous work of, among other things, proofreading, formatting, making helpful suggestions, and compiling the Scripture Index. Who can fully reward him but the Lord Himself?
At my request, two of my coworkers, Agnes S.L. Lim and Lee Sen Siou, graciously undertook the arduous task of examining every occurrence of “Memra” (“Word”) in the Aramaic Targums of the Pentateuch (“the five books of Moses” as they are often called). Aramaic was the language spoken in the Holy Land in the time of Jesus and the early church. It is, therefore, important to know how the people at that time understood “the Word”, so as better to understand “the Word” in John 1.1,14, verses so crucial to our present study. But because Agnes and Lee Sen’s work is too large to include in its entirety in this book, only Genesis and Exodus could be included; even then the original Aramaic texts had to be left out. Their work appears in Appendix 12 of this book, and for their labors I wish to express my heartfelt appreciation. Pastor Bentley contributed the lucid and informative introduction to this Appendix.
It would also be remiss of me to fail to record my thanks and appreciation for my wife’s steadfast prayer support day in and day out. I suppose that only in eternity will it be possible to know how much I owe to her unceasing intercession. Her support was, of course, also given unstintingly on the level of daily household life, such as that of preparing the meals. When called to the dining table, I often only managed to get there when the food had gone cold because of trying to finish some work on a section of the manuscript; yet on no occasion did she express any annoyance at having to reheat the food. I give thanks for His grace manifested in her life to His glory.
Finally, the whole process of writing this book has been, from beginning to end, a remarkable experience of the living God. Day after day, after having been granted a sound sleep, immediately upon awakening (sometimes it began when I was not yet fully awake), I would be given what I might describe as “a stream of thoughts” about what I was to write about that day; I would then spend much of the rest of the day putting it into writing. This did not happen every day, but I think it is true to say that it happened 50% or more of the time during the approximately one year of writing. Besides this, I was on several occasions led to discover, to my great joy, material of importance for the work that I had not been aware existed. Though I have been granted the privilege of experiencing God in many ways and at many times in my life, the writing of this book, though often mentally and physically exhausting (I also had to attend to administrative responsibilities during this time), has been above all a truly unique experience of the living God. To Him, the LORD my God, I wish here to record my wholehearted praise and adoration.
The English Standard Version (ESV, 2001) is the English version used most in this work. When another version is used, it will, in most cases, be acknowledged where that version is quoted. The version used in Appendix 12 is the New Jerusalem Bible.
This book is written for the general reader. For this reason, technical theological terms are avoided as far as possible. The aim of this work is to study the monotheism of the Bible with specific attention to those verses or texts which are used to underpin trinitarian doctrine, to see what these texts actually say when ideas are not read into them or doctrines forced upon them. To do this properly it is usually necessary to study the Scriptures in the original languages in which they were written and not merely in the various translations, because translations are rarely able to bring out fully the meaning and nuances of the original text.
When discussing the original Hebrew and Greek, every effort will be made to help the reader who is unacquainted with these languages to understand the drift of the discussion. Hebrew and Greek words will be transliterated (unless these words are in the text of reference works which are quoted in the present work) so as to help the reader to have some idea how these words are pronounced. But, as far as possible, exegesis of a technical character will be avoided where these may be difficult for the general reader to follow; however, these cannot always be avoided because scholars, and others with fuller knowledge of the Scriptures, also need the relevant material to enable them to see the validity of the exegesis given. Some of this material may be too technical for the average reader, who may wish simply to pass over these sections and go on to the next point. Footnotes will be kept to a minimum.
For those who have some degree of familiarity with the landscape of Biblical studies, it may be of some help if I mention that I can in general identify with the work of Professor James D.G. Dunn of Durham, England. His commitment to exegetical accuracy and refusal to allow dogma to govern exegesis is something to which I, too, am committed. It will not be surprising, therefore, that my conclusions are often similar to his. While I have not read all of his prolific writings, what is relevant to this present work is found mainly in his Christology in the Making and The Theology of Paul the Apostle. This statement, however, has to do solely with methodology; it is in no way meant to imply complete agreement in substance. He has not seen this manuscript prior to its publication.
Where the statistical frequency of certain key words is given, these statistics are always based on the Hebrew or Greek of the original texts and not on the English translations.
Finally, it will be noticed that capitals are used in the words “Biblical” and “Scriptural”, contrary to general literary convention. This is done to emphasize the fact that the present writer regards this study as a study of the Bible as the Word of God, not merely as a study of the ideas and opinions of ancient religious authors. The conviction is thereby expressed that God speaks to mankind through people He has chosen to faithfully deliver His message, His truth. This ultimately rests on the conviction (rooted in personal experience) that God is real, and that He is personally involved in His creation and powerfully active in it. God’s personal involvement and activity came to its fullest and unique expression in Jesus Christ, both in word and in deed.
About the Author
Eric H.H. Chang was born in Shanghai in a non-Christian home. In 1953 he came to know God through a series of miracles, as recounted in How I Have Come to Know God. In 1956 the Lord opened a way for him to leave China. He completed his studies at the Bible Training Institute (Glasgow, Scotland), before moving on to London Bible College. He graduated from the University of London (King’s College and School of Oriental and African Studies) where he read Arts and Divinity. The Lord then led him to minister to a church in Liverpool. While in Liverpool, he was ordained by his dear aged friend, the Reverend Andrew McBeath. Several years later, he was invited to minister in Montreal, Canada. The Lord blessed this ministry too, which has expanded from a small church into a fellowship of a few dozen churches. By the grace and power of God, the ministry continues to grow under the lordship of Jesus Christ.
(c) 2012 Christian Disciples Church