Who Were the Three Men Who Appeared to Abraham?


#1

Hi CAF,

My brothers both brought me their history books which discussed the three men visiting Abraham in Genesis 18. One book specifically says that the three men were Jesus and two angels. The other just says that God took on the form of three men (implying that the three men were the Trinity?). I did a bit of research and I haven’t found anything solid. I can’t seem to find who the Church has said these three men were.

Thank you for your help! God bless you!


#2

I heard they were angels.


#3

Father Haydock’s commentary:

haydock1859.tripod.com/id345.html

Verse 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)


#4

While we probe this (and it’s good to do that, thanks :slight_smile: ) … I’ll post Genesis 18:1-28 New American Bible translation (in the U.S. used at Masses).

Genesis Chapter 18:1 The LORD appeared to Abraham by the terebinth of Mamre, as he sat in the entrance of his tent, while the day was growing hot.

2 Looking up, he saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he ran from the entrance of the tent to greet them; and bowing to the ground,

3 he said: "Sir, if I may ask you this favor, please do not go on past your servant.

4 Let some water be brought, that you may bathe your feet, and then rest yourselves under the tree.

5 Now that you have come this close to your servant, let me bring you a little food, that you may refresh yourselves; and afterward you may go on your way." “Very well,” they replied, “do as you have said.”

6 Abraham hastened into the tent and told Sarah, “Quick, three seahs of fine flour! Knead it and make rolls.”

7 He ran to the herd, picked out a tender, choice steer, and gave it to a servant, who quickly prepared it.

8 Then he got some curds and milk, as well as the steer that had been prepared, and set these before them; and he waited on them under the tree while they ate.

9 “Where is your wife Sarah?” they asked him. “There in the tent,” he replied.

10 One of them said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah will then have a son.” Sarah was listening at the entrance of the tent, just behind him.

11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in years, and Sarah had stopped having her womanly periods.

12 So Sarah laughed to herself and said, “Now that I am so withered and my husband is so old, am I still to have sexual pleasure?”

13 But the LORD said to Abraham: "Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Shall I really bear a child, old as I am?’

14 Is anything too marvelous for the LORD to do? At the appointed time, about this time next year, I will return to you, and Sarah will have a son."

15 Because she was afraid, Sarah dissembled, saying, “I didn’t laugh.” But he said, “Yes you did.”

16 The men set out from there and looked down toward Sodom; Abraham was walking with them, to see them on their way.

17 The LORD reflected: "Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do,

18 now that he is to become a great and populous nation, and all the nations of the earth are to find blessing in him?

19 Indeed, I have singled him out that he may direct his sons and his posterity to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just, so that the LORD may carry into effect for Abraham the promises he made about him."

20 Then the LORD said: "The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great, and their sin so grave,

21 that I must go down and see whether or not their actions fully correspond to the cry against them that comes to me. I mean to find out."

22 While the two men walked on farther toward Sodom, the LORD remained standing before Abraham.

23 Then Abraham drew nearer to him and said: "Will you sweep away the innocent with the guilty?

24 Suppose there were fifty innocent people in the city; would you wipe out the place, rather than spare it for the sake of the fifty innocent people within it?

25 Far be it from you to do such a thing, to make the innocent die with the guilty, so that the innocent and the guilty would be treated alike! Should not the judge of all the world act with justice?"

26 The LORD replied, “If I find fifty innocent people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake.”

27 Abraham spoke up again: "See how I am presuming to speak to my Lord, though I am but dust and ashes!

28 What if there are five less than fifty innocent people? Will you destroy the whole city because of those five?" “I will not destroy it,” he answered, “if I find forty-five there.”

Definitely the LORD is a character in this … not just three men, though they appeared that way, and behaved that way in speaking, walking, being visible, taking hospitality in eating and drinking. “Angels” aren’t specifically mentioned until later, when, in Sodom supernatural powers blind the mob of rapists who clamored at Lot’s door. Then “angels” speak - Gen 19:12.

Verse 22 has “two men” walking on toward Sodom while the LORD remains behind talking with Abraham < - who recognizes him as the LORD - and begins to try to save Sodom (due to the proposition that there may be innocent people there not deserving of destruction equally). The LORD agrees to every new proposition Abraham makes in the case of mercy. Abraham negotiates the number down to ten … then goes no further.

As it turned out just four escape Sodom’s fate by fleeing (reluctantly!) before the doom. So did Abraham’s intercessory pleadings stop too soon? :wink: The LORD did make a distinction between the four and the city anyway. And saved the town of Zoar later at Lot’s request too!

Singular and plural as regards the Lord and the “three men”. :hmmm: Abraham in verses 1 and 2 sees THEM … but in verse 3 begins his discourse with the singular “Sir …” and immediately presents himself as their servant.

A hint about the mystery of the trinity? Just before Abraham is introduced, in Chapter 11, the LORD comes down to view the “tower to the sky men are building”. And refers to (Himself ?) as “us” < **Genesis 11:7. ** [size=]One LORD. Yet a mysterious “us”.

I await further instruction on the matter (from the Church) but when reading the passages I do think of the Trinity. Without the need to really MAKE the other two figures in Ch. 18 or the “us” in Chapter 11 the other members of the Trinity.

There are some pretty knowledgable folks around here. Some good insights may be headed our way. :slight_smile: :popcorn:
[/size]


#5

Thanks. This wasn’t yet up when I posted. :slight_smile: Not that it’s the last word. :popcorn:


#6

Yes I read.that it.was the Trinity


#7

St. Justin Martyr, writing about 155, was the first I know of to discuss this subject and he was of the opinion that the one who remained with Abraham was an apparition of God the Son and the other two “men” who went down to Sodom were angels. ( 56-57, 60Dialogue with Trypho,)


#8

Throughout the section, there is a blending of singular and plural as regards the Lord and the “three men”. Abraham in verses 1 and 2 sees THEM … but in verse 3 begins his discourse with the singular “Sir …” and immediately presents himself as their servant.

A hint about the mystery of the trinity? Just before Abraham is introduced, in Chapter 11, the LORD comes down to view the “tower to the sky men are building”. And refers to (Himself ?) as "us" < **Genesis 11:7 **

Genesis 11:4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the sky, and so make a name for ourselves; otherwise we shall be scattered all over the earth.”

5 LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the men had built.

6 Then the LORD said: "If now, while they are one people, all speaking the same language, they have started to do this, nothing will later stop them from doing whatever they presume to do.

7 Let us then go down and there confuse their language, so that one will not understand what another says."

8 Thus the LORD scattered them from there all over the earth, and they stopped building the city.

9 That is why it was called Babel, because there the LORD confused the speech of all the world. It was from that place that he scattered them all over the earth.

One LORD. Yet a mysterious “us”. :slight_smile:


#9

How about Let Us make man in Our image.
Genesis 1:26

Most would agree that it was the Lord and two angels. Seems the most logical.

God bless


#10

The emphasis is on the Holy Trinity. The apparition to Abraham was painted by St. rublev of Russia which is today one of the most beautiful icons we have of the Trinity. This Old Testament version of the Trinity can be seen as all of the visitors speak with one voice at times. If you check out the icon which can be found on the internet please check out Rublev’s Holy Trinity. The interpretation of the Icon is the central figure is The Son of God, the one on the left is the Eternal Father while the one on the right is the Holy Spirit. Everyone of the figures is eternally youthful revealing the uniqueness of the eternity of the Trinity. The Father for instance is shown as youthful as the Son and the Holy Spirit.


#11

I remember reading in St. Augustine’s The City of God his proposal that it was indeed Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, along with two angels who met with Abraham. It certainly makes sense, since those who have seen Jesus also see God. Nowhere do we ever hear of anyone seeing God the Father or The Holy Spirit.


#12

Just a couple of thoughts.

I have a friend who is always quoting the saints. I don’t like to do this because they have differing views at times. I like to quote the bible or the CCC - which does quote saints when it agrees with church teaching (the magisterium).

Most churches do teach, however, that yes, it probably was Jesus with two angels. The word angel, in hebrew, also means messenger, BTW.

You have a very interesting point regarding never having seen God the Father or the H.S. but we have seen Jesus. Thus, besides the fact that I’ve never really heard that it might even be the Holy Trinity - your view would definitely support it being Jesus and angels.

God bless you


#13

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.