Some Trinitarians take this passage as proof that "Jesus is Yahweh." They see that Isaiah had seen the glory of Jesus and then they turn back the pages to see what Isaiah said and conclude that Isaiah was talking about YAHWEH and therefore Jesus is Yahweh.
Examination of the Claim
1. The Trinitarian Approach
Trinitarians focus upon John's second quotation and locate the source of the John 12:41 quotation:
In the year of King Uzziah's death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another and said, "Holy, Holy, Holy, is YAHWEH of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory. And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke. Then I said, "Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts." Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal in his hand, which he had taken from the altar with tongs. He touched my mouth with it and said, "Behold, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away and your sin is forgiven." Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?" Then I said, "Here am I. Send me!" He said, "Go, and tell this people: `Keep on listening, but do not perceive; Keep on looking, but do not understand.' "Render the hearts of this people insensitive, Their ears dull, And their eyes dim, Otherwise they might see with their eyes, Hear with their ears, Understand with their hearts, And return and be healed."
For Isaiah again said, "He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they should see with their eyes and perceive with their heart, and turn for me to heal them. (NASB)
Having seen that Isaiah 6 is the source of the quotation, Trinitarians then observe the following:
In the year of King Uzziah's death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another and said, "Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory.... my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts."
And then they make the following comparison:
For Isaiah again said, "He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they should see with their eyes and perceive with their heart, and turn for me to heal them." Isaiah said this because he saw his glory and spoke of him.
The Trinitarian objective here is to claim that John's statement means that Isaiah saw Jesus' glory in Isaiah 6 and since Isaiah is referring to YAHWEH, Jesus must therefore BE YAHWEH.
Essentially, Trinitarians are interpreting John as follows:
Isaiah said this because he saw God the Son's glory as he was sitting on a throne in heaven and spoke of God the Son sitting on a throne in heaven.
Isaiah said this because he saw YAHWEH the Son's glory as he was sitting on a throne in heaven and spoke of YAHWEH the Son sitting on a throne in heaven.
2. Where's the Father? Indeed, Where's the Triune God?
One has to wonder what the Trinitarian is actually thinking. In Trinitarian doctrine, the one true God, YAHWEH,is the Triune Being. But somehow, in the Trinitarian mind, YAHWEH sitting on His throne in Isaiah 6 is not the Triune God, not God the Father, but simply Jesus.
Where does God the Father fit in this picture? Are we to suppose that God the Father (and the Holy Spirit) are just not there? Are we to forget they exist, or suppose they are off somewhere else, and suppose just one single person is sitting on this throne and this person is Jesus? Are we to become temporary Modalists to suit this occasion? The Trinitarian claim does not even make sense on the surface of things.
3. John has been referring to Humanity not Divinity
Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? "Father, save me from this hour'? No, for this purpose I have come to this hour." v.27
How can you say that the Son of man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of man? v.34
And John quotes from Isaiah 53 which describes the suffering servant, the human being Jesus.
Behold, My servant will prosper, he will be high and lifted up and greatly exalted. Just as many were astonished at you, My people, So his appearance was marred more than any man and his form more than the sons of men.... Who has believed our message? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? For he grew up before Him like a tender shoot, And like a root out of parched ground; He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him. He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows... Surely our griefs he himself bore, and our sorrows he carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was pierced through for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon him, and by his scourging we are healed... He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet he did not open his mouth; like a lamb that is led to slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, so he did not open His mouth... he was cut off out of the land of the living... the LORD was pleased to crush him, putting him to grief... he poured out his soul unto death. Isaiah 52:13-53:12.
Whether you are a Trinitarian or not, the theme of Isaiah 53 is a suffering servant and suffering humanity, not divinity sitting on a throne.
4. John Quoted Two Separate Verses, Not Just One
John quotes from both Isaiah 53 (v.38) and from Isaiah 6 (v.40). Isaiah 53 is the well known Suffering Servant passage prophetically describing the suffering of God's Christ. But when Trinitarians interpret John 12:41 to conveniently support their doctrine, they intentionally ignore the relevance of John's quotation of Isaiah 53 and focus instead upon his quotation from Isaiah 6. But John says that Isaiah said "these things" And after John states what Isaiah said in Isaiah 53, he says, "For this reason they could not believe, for Isaiah said again,"He has blinded their eyes...."
It is therefore quite clear that "these things" refer to both quotations. So both Isaiah 53 and Isaiah 6 are "these things" which Isaiah said. Therefore, Isaiah saw the glory of Jesus with respect to both Isaiah 53 and Isaiah 6. Moreover, John says that Isaiah said these things when he saw his glory. Whatever glory Isaiah saw, the glory he saw must be seen in Isaiah 53.
These things Isaiah said because he saw His glory.
5. John's Purpose in Quoting these Two Verses
The context makes it quite plain that John's purpose in quoting these two verses is to show how the disbelief of the Jews had been prophesied by Isaiah and this prophecy was now being fulfilled.
"But though He had performed so many signs before them, yet they were not believing in Him. This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet.... Isaiah said these things...."
6. The Trinitarian Claim Directly Contradicts Scripture as well as their own doctrine!
In Isaiah 6, the Lord who was sitting on his throne, the King, the LORD of Hosts, is also the one who says the following to Isaiah:
[The LORD] said, "Go, and tell this people: `Keep on listening, but do not perceive; Keep on looking, but do not understand.' Render the hearts of this people insensitive, Their ears dull, And their eyes dim, Otherwise they might see with their eyes, Hear with their ears, Understand with their hearts, And return and be healed." (Isaiah 6:9-10).
Trinitarians claim the Lord in Isaiah 6 is God the Son. However, this claim conflicts with the Holy Scriptures which say it was the Holy Spirit who said this:
And when they did not agree with one another, they began leaving after Paul had spoken one parting word,"The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your fathers through Isaiah the prophet: 'Go to this people, and say, You shall indeed hear but never understand, and you shall indeed see but never perceive. For this people's heart has grown dull, and their ears are heavy of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest they should perceive with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and turn for me to heal them.'" Acts 28:25-27.
In Trinitarian doctrine, the Son is most definitely NOT the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit is NOT the Son. Acts 28:26 tells us the Holy Spirit spoke these things at Isaiah 6:9-10 and not the Son. This completely rules out the possibility that the Lord in Isaiah 6 is the Son for two reasons:
1. The Trinitarian claim contradicts the Scriptures which say the Holy Spirit said these things not the Son.
2. The Trinitarian claim contradicts their own doctrine because the Son is not the Spirit and the Spirit is not the Son. However, the Scriptures say the Son spoke these things.
Therefore, the Trinitarian claim is demonstrably false since the claim contradicts both Scripture and their own doctrine.
6. The Trinitarian Claim Doesn't Even Make any Rational Sense!
John says that Isaiah said these things about Jewish unbelief because he saw the Messiah's glory. Now, how does it make any rational sense to suggest Isaiah spoke about future unbelieving Jews because he saw a pre-existent Jesus sitting on a throne seven centuries before? It doesn't make any sense whatsoever. It only makes sense that Isaiah saw the future Messiah, his future glory, and the Jewish disbelief in response to that future Messiah.
Analysis of the Evidence
1. The Immediate Context
In the immediately preceding context, John is talking about the fact that people were not believing in him although he had done many signs (v.37) and this happened to fulfill the word spoken by Isaiah:
"Lord, who has believed our report, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?" v.38.
And then John quotes Isaiah 6:10 to indicate they were not able to believe because:
He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they should see with their eyes and perceive with their heart, and turn for me to heal them.
And then we see some very important words from Jesus in the context which follows:
And Jesus cried out and said, "He who believes in me, believes not in me but in the One who sent me. And he who sees me sees the One who sent me." (12:44-45).
The immediate context is about disbelief. Even though the man Jesus had done may signs, they did not believe in him. And so John indicates this is the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecies. And Jesus responds with a teaching on seeing and believing - to see Jesus is not to see Jesus but to see the Father. Throughout the Gospel of John, Jesus explains he was one with the Father in the works he did in his Father's name. People saw the Father at work in Jesus. Even further, John said, "though He had performed so many signs before them, yet they were not believing in him (v. 37). We are told in Scripture that these signs were done by God the Father at work in Jesus (14:10; Acts 2:22).
2. John is Talking about Fulfillment of Prophecy
We are told that the quotations from Isaiah are a fulfillment of prophecy.
But though he had performed so many signs before them, yet they were not believing in him. This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet which he spoke.... (v. 37).
Isaiah's statements are prophetic and they clearly refer to the future when people would not believe in Jesus although he had done many signs before them . Therefore, when we read the words "Isaiah saw his glory and spoke of him," it should be clear that Isaiah prophetically saw the glory of the future Jesus of Nazareth who was doing these signs.
A key fact is that John tells us the current Jewish unbelief had fulfilled the things Isaiah had prophesied and that Isaiah had prophesied these things having seen Jesus' glory. It doesn't make any sense at all to claim that Isaiah said these things about the current Jewish unbelief because he had seen God the Son in the Temple. It is incoherent babble. Isaiah said these things about the current Jewish unbelief because he had seen the glory of the Messiah and prophesied this Jewish unbelief even though Jesus had manifested that glory to them in the signs he had done.
3. What Glory is John talking about?
Note also the immediate context of the Septuagint for John's quotation of Isaiah 53:1.
Behold, my servant shall understand, and be exalted, and GLORIFIED exceedingly. As many shall be amazed at thee, so shall thy face be without GLORY from men, and YOUR GLORY shall not be honoured by the sons of men. Thus shall many nations wonder at him; and kings shall keep their mouths shut: for they to whom no report was brought concerning him, shall see; and they who have not heard, shall consider. O Lord, who has believed our report? and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? Isaiah 52:13-53:1
The Immediate Context of John 12:41
The context makes it quite clear what glory John has in mind when he writes John 12:41, the glory manifested in the signs Jesus was doing. And even thought he manifested his glory in doing these signs, they would still not believe.
And Jesus answered them, saying, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal. If anyone serves me, he must follow me and where I am, there my servant will be also; if anyone serves me, the Father will honor him. Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, `Father, save me from this hour'? But for this purpose I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name." Then a voice came out of heaven: "I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again." 12:23-28.
Jesus' Signs Manifest His Glory
Note how the word "glory" is used in John. It refers to the glory of the works Jesus was doing in his Father's name.
we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father. 1:14
This, the first of the signs Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. John 2:11
Jesus' signs manifested his glory. This is exactly what John has been talking about in the context of John 12:41, "although He had performed so many signs before them, yet they were not believing in him" (v. 37). And then John quotes Isaiah to show that this disbelief is a fulfillment of prophecy.
The Trinitarian claim results in a contradiction within their own doctrine. The words of Isaiah 6 quoted by John are spoken by the Lord Isaiah was seeing in that vision which Trinitarians are claiming is God the Son. However, Paul tells us in Acts that the Holy Spirit spoke these words. But in the doctrine of the Trinity God the Son is NOT the Holy Spirit. The Trinitarian claim is self defeating.
John said Isaiah said "these things." Isaiah 53:1, the suffering servant passage, is one of those two things Isaiah said. "These things" Isaiah said when he saw his glory and spoke of him. What glory did the prophet Isaiah see in Isaiah chapter 53? He saw the glory of a future suffering servant who did many signs manifesting his glory. And this matches perfectly with the glory Jesus is talking about in the preceding context.
John quotes Isaiah to show how Isaiah's prophetic statements about the future were fulfilled. This should immediately tell us that John is not referring to seeing the glory of a pre-existing God the Son sitting on a throne in heaven, but is referring to seeing the future glory of the future man Jesus of Nazareth who manifested his glory in the signs he was doing in his Father's name. It is the glory of a suffering servant, God's servant-son Jesus of Nazareth. Isaiah 6:10 is quoted to show how the disbelief of the Jews had been prophesied by Isaiah. There is no reason, except wishful thinking, to suppose Isaiah 6:10 is quoted by John to refer to a pre-existent God the Son's glory up in heaven simply because Isaiah's vision of the glory of the LORD happens to appear in verse 1 of the same chapter. The context makes it quite clear that the glory in question is the glory of the signs done by this man Jesus who was a future person from Isaiah's perspective. The glory that Isaiah saw was not of God the Son sitting up in heaven on a throne but the glory of the future man Jesus who revealed his glory in the works that he would do including death on cross. This is the glory Isaiah saw.
The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it to life eternal. If anyone serves me, he must follow me and where I am, there my servant will be also; if anyone serves me, the Father will honor him. Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, `Father, save me from this hour'? But for this purpose I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name." Then a voice came out of heaven: "I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again." So the crowd of people who stood by and heard it were saying that it had thundered; others were saying, "An angel has spoken to him." Jesus answered and said, "This voice has not come for My sake, but for your sakes. Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all to myself." But He was saying this to indicate the kind of death by which he was to die. John 12:23-35.
Behold, My servant will prosper, He will be high and lifted up and greatly exalted. Just as many were astonished at you, My people, So His appearance was marred more than any man And His form more than the sons of men. Thus He will sprinkle many nations, Kings will shut their mouths on account of Him; For what had not been told them they will see, And what they had not heard they will understand. Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, And as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; And when we see Him, [There is] no beauty that we should desire Him. He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, [our] faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. But He [was] wounded for our transgressions, [He was] bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace [was] upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, So He opened not His mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment, And who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; For the transgressions of My people He was stricken. And they made His grave with the wicked -- But with the rich at His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor [was any] deceit in His mouth. Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put [Him] to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see [His] seed, He shall prolong [His] days, And the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand. He shall see the labor of His soul, [and] be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, For He shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, And He shall divide the spoil with the strong, Because He poured out His soul unto death, And He was numbered with the transgressors, And He bore the sin of many, And made intercession for the transgressors.