The 3 men in Genesis 18:2

The 3 men that are mentioned, is their any teaching on who these 3 men are? I have heard 2 different perspectives. The first one that it was God and 2 angels. The second perspective is that it was The Father, The Son, and the Holy Spirit. Does anybody know

The 3 men who visited Abraham were thought to be the Trinity.

Then the Lord appeared to him, in the steep valley of Mamre, when he was sitting at the door of his tent, in the very heat of the day.

"And when he had lifted up his eyes, there appeared to him three men, standing near him. When he had seen them, he ran to meet them from the door of his tent, and he reverenced them on the ground.

Gen 18: 1-2 shows the exchange between God and Abraham. At first, God is described as a singular person “the Lord”. But when Abraham actually laid his eyes on “the Lord”, he did not see one man, but three. It shows the nature of the Trinity, three divine persons united in one Godhead.

Also, it’s significant Abraham reverenced all three men. If it had been God and two angels, Abraham would have reverenced just one (the Lord).

And he said: “If I, O lord, have found grace in your eyes, do not pass by your servant. But I will bring a little water, and you may wash your feet and rest under the tree. And I will set out a meal of bread, so that you may strengthen your heart; after this you will pass on. It is for this reason that you have turned aside to your servant.”

And they said, “Do as you have spoken.”

Again, the same thing happens for verses 3-4. Abraham addresses God in a singular tone, but “they” (plural) replied him.

Hmm… no, not literally, on the face of the narrative; in the text, it’s the Lord and two angels (see Gen 19:1 – the ‘other two’ are the ones who visit Sodom). In the context of Abraham’s culture and belief, God himself would never appear personally to a human; for a person to see God was a death sentence (the idea was that no one was holy enough to gaze upon the Lord and live). So, when God’s messengers (i.e., angels) appeared to humans, they were the presence of God that people could behold safely. So, when people talked to angels, they called them ‘Lord’, since they were, in a very real way, physical representations of God himself.

So, I would assert that it was likely three angels, one of whom spoke as the messenger of God.

But, to your point, there has been a traditional interpretation that saw – allegorically – the three visitors as symbolizing the Trinity. (I think it was St Ambrose who preached on this topic… (?)) Even though this homiletic approach has been embraced by the Church, and even though it works on the level of the spiritual sense of Scripture, it is not necessarily what the literal sense of Scripture is telling us in this story.

There is a 3rd possibility also – that they were 3 angels. Here is the commentary on that verse from the Haydock Bible:
Ver. 2. Men in outward appearance, but angels indeed. (Hebrews xiii. 2; St. Augustine, City of God xvi. chap. 29.) Some have supposed, that one of them was the Son of God, whom Abraham adored, and who bears throughout the chief authority. Tres vidit et unum adoravit. He saw three and adored one, as we read in the Church office. In the former supposition, which is generally adopted, this adoration was only a civil ceremony, if Abraham considered them as mere men; or it might be mixed with a degree of religious, though inferior veneration, if he imagined they were angels; or in fine, he adored God in his representatives. (Haydock)
There is no official Church teaching as to who these 3 men were. Opinions have varied.

You might want to do some Internet reading on the Rublev “Trinity” icon which pictures this event. It is a famous work of art, and one open to multiple interpretations. It sheds interesting light on the Biblical passage itself.

When I heard that it was the Trinity I saw what they meant that it was the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Bible is full of great mysteries

I seem to remember in St. Augustine’s the City of God that he suggested that it was Jesus Himself and two angels. I’ll have to look it up.

I’m wondering what the light-blue is behind each of the three persons.


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