The Godhead as an Aggregate Class

Most Christians will, at one time or another, find themselves in a situation where they will be forced to defend their belief in the Godhead or Trinity. Their defense will most likely go something like this, “God is one God who exists in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” I’ve used this approach in the past myself because it’s the defense we’ve all heard from the pulpit thousands of times. However, to most non-Christians especially Jews and Muslims, this explanation is inadequate and sounds too scripted—i.e., just another pat answer.

The universally accepted notion of the Christian Godhead existing as one God in three persons doesn’t adequately represent the special and unique relationship between God as Father and Jesus as Son. In addition, the Trinity doesn’t address the problem of Melchizedek who was the first of a priestly Order that bears His name.

The foundational theory for this writing was initially presented in my “GOD & the Gods” series inaugural blog entry, “One God”. However, in this writing, I propose to refine and expand on the ideas presented in that former blog post by demonstrating that the notion of the Godhead can be expressed as an aggregate class.

I concede that any attempt to explain spiritual or religious beliefs using concepts derived from computer science and object-oriented programming and design is ambitious to say the least. Nevertheless, I believe it works since it makes sense to model the abstract using tools and techniques designed for that purpose namely the Unified Modeling Language (UML) and the Object Modeling Technique (OMT) developed and published by Rumbaugh, et. al.1

This blog post models the Godhead using the following four fundamental object-oriented terms and concepts: class, object, inheritance, and instantiation. In the context of this writing, class is the abstraction whereas object is the actual thing or in this context, the actual person. In computer programming parlance, instantiation means to create an instance of an object, in other words, the creation or realization of the abstraction or class.

This discussion on object-oriented terminology may seem too techy for some readers but these basic concepts are necessary in order to understand the primary focus of this writing which is aggregation. It’s important to remember that for the remainder of this blog post, the terms “object” and “person” are synonymous because the term “object” in this discussion will always refer to persons specifically, not things in general.

The main problem which needs to be addressed before a meaningful model of the Godhead can be developed is how to deal with Melchizedek. In Genesis, Melchizedek appears to Abram and offers him bread and wine and a blessing. Abram responds by offering Melchizedek a “tenth of all” (Gen. 14:20 NASB) or tithe. The parallels that can be drawn between Jesus and Melchizedek because of the offering of bread and wine are unmistakable which led most writers and theologians to classify Melchizedek as a Christophany—the visible and bodily manifestation of Christ before His incarnation.

I believe the writer of Hebrews clearly teaches that Melchizedek, king of Salem, was a person of the Godhead when he wrote, “Without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, he remains a priest perpetually.” (Heb. 6:20) I also believe the writer of Hebrews deliberately, under inspiration, made a point to mention Melchizedek’s lack of genealogy so as to draw a distinction between Melchizedek and Jesus whose genealogy was well documented by Matthew and Luke. In addition, the phrase “made like the Son of God” clearly indicates that Melchizedek took on human form as did Jesus but unlike Jesus, he came into being without having been born of a human mother.

The Christophany interpretation fits right in with those who hold to a Trinitarian view of the Godhead because if Melchizedek was a person of Divine origin and not simply a manifestation of Christ then that would upset their entire belief system. This Trinitarian bias is evident in the NASB translator’s Hebrews Chapter 7 heading which is, “Melchizedek’s Priesthood Like Christ’s” which implies Melchizedek’s priesthood proceeded Christ’s earthly ministry when in fact it preceded Christ’s earthly ministry as the writer of Hebrews states: “where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” (Heb. 6:20) The reader should be aware that chapter and verse divisions in our Bible translations were not in the original autographs and are therefore not inspired.

Finally, according to the writer of Hebrews, both Melchizedek and Jesus remain priests forever and that Jesus’ genealogy was not of the tribe of Levi but of Judah, a tribe which Moses never spoke concerning priests (Heb. 7:14) therefore Jesus was made a priest forever by prophetic decree:

The LORD has sworn and will not change His mind, ‘You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek.’ (Ps. 110:4)

The special relationship that exists between the Father and the Son is documented in detail throughout the Gospel of John. The following are just a few examples that illustrate this special relationship:

Jesus said to them, ‘If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and have come from God, for I have not even come on My own initiative, but He sent Me’ (John 8:42)

‘For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak.’ (John 12:49)

‘Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works.’ (John 14:10)

The traditional Trinitarian view of the Son as being co-equal with the Father and the Comforter as separate persons of the Godhead neglects to consider the obvious reciprocal relationship that exists between Father and Son.

‘All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.’ (Matt. 11:27)

The UML (Unified Modeling Language) diagram for the Trinitarian view of the Godhead is presented in Figure 1.

Trinitarian Godhead Model
Figure 1. Trinitarian Godhead Model

As illustrated in Figure 1 above, the three subclasses: Father, Son, and Comforter all inherit attributes from the Godhead superclass. Only four attributes are shown in the Godhead symbol because a detailed discussion of Divine attributes are beyond the scope of this writing.

As the Trinitarian model demonstrates, any instantiation (actualization) of one of the subclasses is not dependent on any of the other subclasses. In other words, God the Father can exist without God the Son existing or without God the Comforter existing. The actual instantiations of the three subclasses are not shown in Figure 1, however the implication is YHVH is instantiated from Father, Jesus is instantiated from Son, and the Holy Spirit is instantiated from Comforter where all three instantiations make up the traditional view of the Trinity.

Note that Melchizedek could not be instantiated from any subclass shown in Figure 1 since a Priest class had not been taken into consideration.

The Trinitarian model, as defended by Christianity—one God in three persons—is easily attacked by Jews and Muslims as being polytheistic since it would appear to allow multiple individual Gods to be instantiated from the Godhead superclass.

The UML diagram for the improved aggregate view of the Godhead is presented in Figure 2.

Aggregate Godhead Model
Figure 2. Aggregate Godhead Model

Figure 2 presents a more biblical representation of the Godhead since a Priest subclass is included along with the expected Father, Son, and Comforter subclasses. The model shows that the Godhead superclass shown in the first level of the model is an aggregate of the subclasses in the second level of the model. Aggregation says that if multiple objects “are tightly bound by a part-whole relationship, it is an aggregation.”2 Another way aggregation can be tested is by applying the phrase, “part of”3 or “a-part-of”4 to a relationship. So, in our model in Figure 2 we can say Son is a-part-of Father, and Father, Priest, and Comforter are collectively a-part-of Godhead.

Rumbaugh, et. al. further defines aggregation as an “and-relationship”5 so that given the model in Figure 2 we can say that Godhead is made up of {Father and Son}, and Priest, and Comforter—a class trinity.

I chose to name the Holy Spirit’s subclass “Comforter” which is the rendering of “paraklêtos” in the King James Version of the Bible. I could have also used “Helper” as rendered from the Greek in the New American Standard Bible and other newer translations. However, I believe “Comforter” adds a compassionate dimension to “Helper.”

In addition, I’ve extended the UML notation by adding instantiation to the model. Instantiation is shown by dotted lines with open arrowheads pointing to each of the four person symbols labeled with each person’s actual name.

As demonstrated in this blog post, the notion of One God who exists in three persons is not as simple and straightforward a concept as many would have you believe. There is a reason the word “Trinity” doesn’t appear in the Bible.

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  1. Rumbaugh, James, M. Blaha, W. Premerlani, F. Eddy, W. Lorensen, Object-Oriented Modeling and Design, (Englewood Cliffs, Prentice Hall, 1991), 16-17. 

  2. Ibid., 58. 

  3. Ibid. 

  4. Ibid., 59. 

  5. Ibid. 

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