Godhead -- Word Study
The term Godhead, although a Biblical word, is misunderstood in Christendom today. To every mainstream denomination – Roman Catholic, Anglican, Uniting, Lutheran, Baptist, Methodist, Church of Christ, Seventh-day Adventist and others, the word Godhead means the Trinity – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
Meaning of Godhead
The word is only used in the New Testament, and therefore in the Greek. There are actually three words – ‘theios’ (2304, from 2316), ‘theiotes’ (2305, from 2304), and ‘theotes’ (2320, from 2316). They all mean ‘godlike, divine, divinity’. Two of them are taken from ‘theos’ (2316), meaning ‘a deity, esp. the supreme Divinity; fig a magistrate; by Heb very: exceeding, God, god-ly, god-ward’.
Acts 17:29. “Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead (theios) is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device.”
The text could have been translated “Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God (theos), we ought not to think that Divinity (theios) is like unto gold, or silver…”
Both are correct and mean the same. It is just a grammatical change from ‘theos’ to ‘theios’.
Romans 1:188.8.131.52.20. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation…. for therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith… for the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness…. because that which may be known of God is manifest in them, for God hath shewed it unto them, for the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead (theiotes); so that they are without excuse….”
The extra verses clearly show that ‘theiotes’ relates to the ‘God’ mentioned in the previous verses. It is His “eternal power and theiotes” that is clearly seen in the creation. Again, it is purely a grammatical difference. Thus it could have been translated, “His eternal power and divinity”.
Colossians 2:8.9. “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men…. And not after Christ, for in Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead (theotes) bodily.”
Unfortunately, the word Godhead has become to mean three Supreme Beings that make one God, and so this verse is taken to mean that Christ is part of the Trinitarian Godhead.
But an understanding of the word ‘theotes’, which is from ‘theos’, shows that it simply means ‘divinity’. Thus the text could have been translated “…. for in Him (Christ) dwelleth all the fullness of divinity bodily.”
This means that in His Incarnation, Christ retained the divinity that was His own as the begotten Son of the Father. Colossians says, “For it pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell.” Colossians 1:19.
“Christ had not exchanged His divinity for humanity; but He had clothed His divinity with humanity.” 7 BC 445.
Some of the pioneers wrote the word Godhead as God-head, signifying that the Father was the head, the supreme Ruler, or the divine Source of all things. This is ridiculed by Trinitarians, however, the Scriptures use this same terminology.
“But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is the man, and the head of Christ is God.” 1 Corinthians 11:3.
Thus the Bible shows it is not so ridiculous at all. God the Father is the Head of Christ, or has authority over His Son.
Texts using 'theios' as 'divine'
2 Peter 1:3.4. “According as his divine (theios) power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue. Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine (theios) nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.”
These texts are absolutely clear, and should help us understand the previous verses that have been translated Godhead instead of divine or divinity.
Ellen White's use of Godhead -- divinity
“Christ had not ceased to be God when He became man. Though He had humbled Himself to humanity, the Godhead was still His own.” The Desire of Ages p664.665.
If we have a true understanding of the term Godhead from the Greek and from the Scriptures, we should have no problem with this statement. Christ did not give up His divinity.
Christ “took humanity upon Him, but He did not leave His divinity; He clothed His divinity with humanity.” Sermons and Talks Vol 2. p126.
Jesus Christ is Immanuel – God with us.
“The greatness of God cannot be measured or comprehended. And that doctrine that denies the absolute Godhead of Jesus Christ, denies also the Godhead of the Father; for no man knoweth the Son but the Father.” Signs of the Times. June 27.1895.
Sister White could have written that to deny the absolute divinity of Jesus Christ is to deny the divinity of the Father. The meaning of the word Godhead becomes clear once we establish its meaning from the Scriptures.
As a human being, Christ is still God in nature, of that there is no question.
“The Father can not be described by the things of earth. The Father is all the fullness of the Godhead bodily, and is invisible to mortal sight. The Son is all the fullness of the Godhead manifested..” Bible Training School. March 1. 1906.
"The attempt to represent the Eternal One by material objects would lower mean's conception of God." Patriarchs and Prophets p305.6. This is an important aside, especially when we consider how many try to illustrate the Trinity by using a three-leaf clover, fire, air, and water, the three forms of water -- water, steam and ice, and of all things, a mouse-trap. How degrading.
Back to the true meaning of Godhead.
“When Christ bowed His head and died…. He vanquished Satan in the same nature over which in Eden Satan obtained the victory. The enemy was overcome by Christ in His human nature. The power of the Saviour’s Godhead was hidden. He overcame in human nature, relying upon God for power. This is the privilege of all.” 5 Bible Commentary p1108.
Again, the power of the Saviour’s divinity was hidden.
“Those who at Pentecost were endued with power from on high…. Daily they prayed for fresh supplies of grace, that they might reach higher and still higher toward perfection. Under the Holy Spirit's working even the weakest, by exercising faith in God, learned to improve their entrusted powers and to become sanctified, refined, and ennobled. As in humility they submitted to the molding influence of the Holy Spirit, they received of the fullness of the Godhead and were fashioned in the likeness of the divine.” The Acts of the Apostles p49.
Obviously there is a difference between God’s people receiving the fullness of the Godhead (or divinity) and Christ receiving it at His birth in eternity. However, to receive the Holy Spirit is to receive the fullness of divinity, which fashions us in the likeness of the divine.
When we receive Christ, we receive the Spirit of God, “…. and in Him (we) are made full’.” (Colossians. 2:9, 10, RV) The Desire of Ages p181.
Ellen White's use of Godhead -- the Father
“By the Son of God…. the Father must be represented… Our Redeemer is a perfect revelation of the Godhead; and it is of importance that as His disciples, we understand through Him, God’s relation to us.” Manuscript 43. 1897 p2.
Sister White also uses the word Godhead to mean the Father. Note in the above statement that the Father must be represented and Christ is that revelation. Of course, it still means divinity, but these quotes are very specific.
“In Christ Jesus is a revelation of the glory of the Godhead…. for Christ is He who represents the Father.” Signs of the Times. Dec 12. 1895.
“Christ Himself is the pearl of great price. In Him is gathered all the glory of the Father, the fullness of the Godhead. He is the brightness of the Father's glory and the express image of His person. The glory of the attributes of God is expressed in His character.” Christ's Object Lessons p115.
This means that we could translate the text Colossians 2:9 as “….in Christ dwelleth all the fullness of the Father’s divinity bodily.” It was His own divinity by birth, but as He is the Son of the Father, the Father is the Source.
“The Son is all the fullness of the Godhead manifested.” Special Testimonies. Series B No.7 p63.
Instead it could say -- the fullness of the Father manifested.
The following statement is one that is often used to prove the Trinity, and we need to deal with it at length to understand it clearly. It is from the book Counsels on Health p222. The section below is the part we need to study.
“The Godhead was stirred with pity for the race, and the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit gave Themselves to the working out of the plan of redemption. In order fully to carry out this plan, it was decided that Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, should give Himself an offering for sin. What line can measure the depth of this love?"
We will discuss three important points.
1. Look at the previous paragraph. "It is the glory of the gospel that it is founded upon the principle of restoring in the fallen race the divine image by a constant manifestation of benevolence. This work began in the heavenly courts. There God decided to give human beings unmistakable evidence of the love with which He regarded them. He 'so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.' John 3:16." Ibid. p222.
This paragraph says the Father "decided to give human beings unmistakable evidence of the love with which He regarded them." This can mean that the Father had pity for the human race, and He gave His Son.
2. The next paragraph begins with, "The Godhead was stirred with pity for the human race..." The meaning of the word Godhead is 'divine' or 'divinity' of Christ, as you have seen above, but it can also refer to the Father, or the Father's divinity.
3. It is true the sentence continues on, "and the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit gave Themselves to the working out of the plan of redemption." Counsels on Health. p222. This appears to say that the Father, Son, and Spirit worked out the plan of redemption. But this is not what it is saying. Instead it says that the Father, Son, and Spirit worked out -- put into effect -- the plan of redemption. The words “working out the plan” can mean ‘fulfilling the plan’, not ‘formulating’ it.
In the Webster's 1928 Dictionary, ‘work out’ means ‘to effect by labor and exertion’. It does not mean ‘to devise a plan of labor’, but the actual working out of the plan already formulated. A text given as a reference in the dictionary is Philippians 2:12. “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” This does not mean to devise a plan, but to co-operate with God in His plan.
The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit “gave themselves to the working out of the plan of redemption”, a plan that had been formulated by the Father and the Son in the councils of heaven prior to the creation of the earth. At the fall of man, the working out of the plan began. (Sister White did not capitalise the word ‘themselves’. This was the printer’s decision)
There is no question the Spirit is involved in redemption, otherwise we could not be benefited by Christ's sacrifice on Calvary. "It is the Spirit that makes effectual what has been wrought out by the world's Redeemer. It is by the Spirit that the heart is made pure. Through the Spirit the believer becomes a partaker of the divine nature." Desire of Ages p671.
Whatever or Whoever you believe the Holy Spirit to be at this moment, there is no question he (or it) plays a part in our salvation, but this is not our subject. It is -- who is the Godhead who formulated the counsel of peace.
In the statement in question, the word ‘Godhead’ primarily means the ‘divinity of the Father’, and it is true, the Father was stirred with pity for the fallen race, so much so, that He gave His only begotten Son to die for it. Notice the paragraph before the one quoted above, and you will see it speaks of the Father’s concern for sinners.
“It is the glory of the gospel that it is founded upon the principle of restoring in the fallen race the divine image by a constant manifestation of benevolence. This work began in the heavenly courts. There God decided to give human beings unmistakable evidence of the love with which He regarded them. He ‘so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life’. John 3:16.” Counsels on Health p222.
It is clear it was the Father who gave His Son, and in doing this, He “gave all the resources of heaven”. But it is also true that the Son was also stirred with pity for the human race, that He offered to give His life as a sacrifice.
What about the Spirit? Was He -- as another divine Being -- in the heavenly council, and also stirred with pity for sinners?
Did the Father, Son and Holy Spirit work out the plan of salvation together?
No, but there is no question “the three great powers of heaven are working” to save men and women from sin and working today for our salvation. Review & Herald. May 5. 1903.
We just need to understand who they are and how they work to effect our salvation.