The Doctrine of the Trinity in the Book of Daniel (Pt.1): God the Father

God the Father

Since there are some ways in which each Person of the Godhead is differentiated from the other, I will limit myself to those verses that explicitly differentiate between the distinct Persons of the Godhead. In Daniel 3, we have the first differentiation of Divine Persons. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego fall under the judgment of Nebuchadnezzar, and are cast into a fiery furnace. They are saved by a fourth man whose appearance is like “the Son of God.” The ESV translation renders this as “a son of the gods,” but in keeping with Scripture I think it is difficult to maintain that view since Nebuchadnezzar goes on to proclaim: “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent His Angel and delivered His servants, who trusted in Him, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own.”[1] This chapter presents us with Two Persons: God and the Angel whom He sends to save His covenant people. This distinction is not imposed on the text from without; rather, the text itself yields these data. Just as our Lord declares that He has been sent by the Father to deliver His elect people, so God the Father is said to send His Angel to deliver His elect people (viz. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego).

The act of sending is spoken of repeatedly in our Lord’s Trinitarian Discourse in the Upper Room just prior to His arrest and crucifixion.[2] The Father sends Christ, His Messenger who is present in the Old Testament narratives as “the Angel of the Lord,” and Christ saves those whom He is sent to save. Christ, however, was also sent into the world for judgment, and this is what we encounter in Daniel 2, which is evident when we compare it to Daniel 7:9-14. We see in these two passages, i.e. Daniel 3 and Daniel 7:9-14, the Son of God who is sent to save, and the Son of Man who returns to the Father to receive glory, dominion, power, etc. The Father and the Son are presented to us in the same relation that they have in the New Testament: The Father sends the Son to save His elect people; the Son saves His elect people and returns to the Father to receive glory, dominion, power, etc. To translate Daniel 3:25b as “a son of the gods” is to miss this consistent presentation of God’s interaction with the Angel who descends from heaven to save His elect people and the Son of Man who ascends into heaven to be crowned eternal King of kings.

Is this differentiation limited to only the Father and the Son? Not at all. There are at least four references to the “the Spirit of God” in the book of Daniel. The ESV, again, translates this as “the spirit of the holy gods;” however, looking at the context of the passages in which the reference occurs and considering the larger context of Biblical data concerning the Holy Spirit, I think we can safely say that “the Spirit of God” is a better translation. The Father sends His Angel, a Man who has the appearance of the Son of God, to save His elect people, and He places His Spirit within His elect people. Daniel 4:8-9, 18, 5:11-12 & 14 all mention either “the Spirit of the Holy God,” “the Spirit of God,” or “an Excellent Spirit.” While the first two references are clearly references to the Holy Spirit, the third may not be so easy to identify as the Third Person of the Holy Trinity. What we can say with certainty is that the Holy Spirit is said to be within Daniel; He is the source of Daniel’s light and understanding and wisdom, revealing what is otherwise concealed from the natural understanding of unregenerate men.

Thus, we see that the Father sends the Son to save His elect people, receives the Son upon His ascension and crowns Him eternal King of kings and Lord of lords, and places His Holy Spirit within His elect people in order to reveal and give them wisdom and knowledge of spiritual truth. As I’ve already mentioned above, the doctrine of the Trinity is not presented here as clearly as it is, for instance, in John 3:1-21; nonetheless, the seeds of the doctrine are present. The Father is shown to be the One who sends His Angel/Messiah and who crowns the Son of Man/Messiah as King of kings. He also guides His people by means of His Holy Spirit.

[Go to Pt.2: God the Son]


[1] Dan 3:28

[2] Cf. John 14:26; 15:26; 17:3, 8, 18, 20-23, & 25

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