Published: 29 April 2024

The Strange Story of Two Yahwehs

Two Yahwehs

In the first century AD, every Jewish child grew up knowing the Shema: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is One” (Deut. 6:4 BEREAN). This verse stresses that there’s only one God. But strangely, in the New Testament, Jesus’s Jewish followers didn’t seem bothered by the idea of Jesus being God’s Son alongside God the Father. They remained unperturbed by the potential tension of acknowledging, for lack of a better phrase, “two Yahwehs.”

If we dig deeper, we’ll see that the real issue isn’t about two Gods. It’s about how we understand monotheism today versus what the Bible’s perspective on monotheism is. Subtle clues found in 1 Timothy 6:13-16 offer insight into the nuanced Jewish concept of monotheism.

Blurred lines

13 I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who made the good confession in His testimony before Pontius Pilate: 14 Keep this commandment without stain or reproach until the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which the blessed and only Sovereign One—the King of kings and Lord of lords—will bring about in His own time. 16 He alone is immortal and dwells in unapproachable light. No one has ever seen Him, nor can anyone see Him. To Him be honor and eternal dominion! Amen. (1 Tim. 6:13-16 BEREAN)

Paul’s writing in these verses appears to blend the identities of Jesus and God, making it challenging to discern where one ends and the other begins. He begins by referencing both God and Jesus separately, but as the passage progresses, the distinction between them becomes less clear. There is no clear place where Paul transitions between God and Jesus. 

Similar instances can be found in Old Testament passages. Biblical authors made a deliberate effort in Old Testament passages to depict not just one, but two distinct divine figures that they considered to be one and the same God. This challenges our modern, secular usage of the word monotheism.

Allowing the Bible to define our terms

The earliest known usage of the English word monotheism, denoting a belief in a single deity, emerged in the 17th century AD.1 Indeed, the Bible proclaims there is but one God. Nevertheless, if we define monotheism without the benefit of the Bible, we are likely to say there are three Gods: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Therefore, it’s crucial to allow the Bible to establish its own definitions rather than relying solely on external sources like the English dictionary.

Two Yahwehs in the Old Testament?

Since Paul was a Jewish rabbi, let’s look at a few Old Testament examples to see if we can better understand his view of God. I have written about this topic previously when examining the identity of the Angel of the LORD. So, I’ll briefly mention a few passages investigated in that article and then make a couple more observations.

Genesis 22:10-17

11 Just then the angel of the LORD called out to him from heaven, “Abraham, Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. 12 “Do not lay a hand on the boy or do anything to him,” said the angel, “for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your only son from me.” (Gen. 22:11-12 BEREAN)

Notice how the fluidity in language used to describe the Angel of the LORD blurs the line between the Angel and Yahweh Himself. The Angel of the LORD referred to Himself in the first person and to God in the third person (as expected). However, the Angel of the LORD then declares that Abraham had not withheld Isaac “from me.” The angel is now speaking about God in the first person as if the angel is God! The seamless transition between first and third person perspectives implies deeper significance beyond the Angel merely conveying a divine message.

Genesis 31:11-13

11 In that dream the angel of God said to me, ‘Jacob!’ And I replied, ‘Here I am.’ 12 ‘Look up,’ he said, ‘and see that all the males that are mating with the flock are streaked, spotted, or speckled; for I have seen all that Laban has done to you. 13 I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed the pillar and made a solemn vow to Me. Now get up and leave this land at once, and return to your native land.’” (Gen. 31:11-13 BEREAN)

What Genesis 22 implies, Genesis 31 makes explicit. Jacob’s encounter with the “angel of God” in a dream reveals a direct declaration: He identifies Himself as the God of Bethel. The same Angel who intervened at the interrupted sacrifice of Isaac has now appeared to Isaac’s son, identifying Himself as God.

Judges 6

Judges 6 documents another remarkable manifestation of two Yahweh figures. Initially, the Angel of the LORD appears to Gideon in verse 11 and engages in conversation with him. Gideon expresses concern about whether God has forsaken Israel. Then, in verse 14, it is the LORD Himself who speaks! As the narrative progresses, there are two Yahweh figures present with Gideon: one visible and one invisible. Even after the Angel of the LORD disappears in verse 21, God continues to converse with him.

Now, let’s look at two more passages that might offer hints of this duality.

Genesis 15

4 Then the word of the LORD came to Abram, saying, “This one will not be your heir, but one who comes from your own body will be your heir.” 5 And the LORD took him outside and said, “Now look to the heavens and count the stars, if you are able.” Then He told him, “So shall your offspring be.” (Gen. 15:4-5 BEREAN)

In John 1:1, why do you suppose that John called Jesus the “Word?” I believe there were clues in the Old Testament that John picked up on. One of them may have been this one in Genesis 15. It has not gone unnoticed by scholars that there is an ancient Jewish connection between the Old Testament “word of the LORD” and the “Logos” or “Word” of John 1:1.2

Notice that the “word of the LORD came to Abram.” Admittedly, this could be referring to a word that God said to Abram. However, considering the previous passages, could the “word of the LORD” be referring to a second divine being? Notice that in v. 5, the LORD took Abram outside. This passage is clearly open to debate and interpretation, but it is possible this passage is documenting another manifestation of a simultaneous visit of two Yahweh figures – one visible, one invisible.

1 Samuel 3

This well-known chapter describes the LORD revealing Himself to young Samuel at Shiloh. Samuel hears the voice of the LORD (Yahweh) that he at first mistakes for the voice of Eli. This event marks Samuel’s recognition as a prophet of the LORD. It is the last verse of the chapter that is noteworthy:

And the LORD appeared again at Shiloh, for the LORD revealed himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the LORD. (1 Sam. 3:21 ESV)

Yahweh revealed Himself by the “word of Yahweh.” Is this “word of Yahweh” a message, or a divine person? We can’t say with certainty, but given all the above, it is possible that the “word of the LORD” is the same being that is elsewhere called the Angel of the LORD and who John referred to as “the Word” – Jesus.

Two Powers in Heaven

The concept of “Two Powers in Heaven,” as explored by Alan Segal, suggests a possible strand of belief in ancient Judaism regarding the existence of two distinct manifestations of Yahweh.3 Some ancient Jews embraced this concept and it wasn’t until Christians began to identify the second Yahweh figure as Jesus Christ that rabbis began to reject it.

“There are two Yahweh figures in Old Testament thinking—one invisible, the other visible and human in form. Judaism before the first century, the time of Jesus, knew this teaching. That’s why ancient Jewish theology once embraced two Yahweh figures (the “two powers”). But once this teaching came to involve the risen Jesus of Nazareth, Judaism could no longer tolerate it.”4

“[L]ate-ancient rabbinic literature when read in the context of all contemporary and earlier texts of Judaism — those defined as rabbinic as well as those defined as non-, para-, or even anti-rabbinic — affords us a fair amount of evidence for and information about a belief in (and perhaps cult of) a second divine person within, or very close to, so-called ‘orthodox’ rabbinic circles long after the advent of Christianity.”5

Monotheism defined biblically

So, where does all of this leave us? Just as Paul seems to blur the lines between the beings of the Godhead, so do the Old Testament authors, as well as ancient rabbis. From their perspectives, the Bible’s concept of monotheism (“the LORD is one” – Deuteronomy 6:4) doesn’t necessitate the belief in three separate Gods simply because there are three divine beings. According to the biblical framework, there are certainly three divine beings, yet they are understood as constituting a singular God.

How can this be? While it may seem like an oversimplification, consider this analogy: Just as billions of individual humans comprise a singular group known as humanity, there are three distinct divine beings comprising one “group” called God. 

People often say that finite human minds cannot comprehend an infinite God. However, perhaps there’s merit in contemplating whether God’s existence as three divine spiritual beings can be grasped through such a straightforward comparison. It’s worth thinking about.


  2. Boyarin, Daniel. “The Gospel of the Memra: Jewish Binitarianism and the Prologue to John: Harvard Theological Review.” Harvard Theological Review 94, no. 3 (July 2001): 243–84.
  4. Heiser, Michael S.. The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible (p. 171). Lexham Press. Kindle Edition.
  5. Boyarin, Daniel. “Beyond Judaisms: Metatron and the Divine Polymorphy of Ancient Judaism: Journal for the Study of Judaism in the Persian, Hellenistic and Roman Period.” Journal for the Study of Judaism in the Persian, Hellenistic and Roman Period 41, no. 3 (2010): 323–324.