Ruminating on the Divine Trinity – Rudolph P. Boshoff

It was Theologian A.W. Tozer, in his book “The Knowledge of the Holy” that stated “What comes to into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. The history of mankind will probably show that no people has ever risen above its religion, a man’s spiritual history will positively demonstrate that no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God. Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God. For this reason the gravest question before the Church is always God Himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like.[1]

Definition of the Biblical Trinity:
As Christians we need to understand that we can only speak about what God revealed, and not guess as to our own estimation of what we deem Him to be. Jürgen Moltmann gives a pretty good clue when he wrote “in the life of the immanent Trinity everything is unique. It is only because everything in God’s nature is unique that in the ways and works of God it can be recognized as the origin of other things…we can really only tell, relate, but not sum up.”[2]

If we want to look for a functional definition of the Biblical concept of the Trinity my friend Dr James White sums it up very well when he writes:

“We are not saying that the Father is the Son, or the Son the Spirit, or the Spirit the Father. It is very common for people to misunderstand the doctrine as to mean that we are saying Jesus is the Father. The doctrine of the Trinity does not in any way say this! “The three Biblical doctrines that flow directly into the river that is the Trinity are as follows:296345-46014-43

1) There is one and only one God, eternal, immutable.
2) There are three eternal Persons described in Scripture – the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. These Persons are never identified with one another – that is, they are carefully differentiated as Persons.
3) The Father, the Son, and the Spirit, are identified as being fully deity—that is, the Bible teaches the Deity of Christ and the Deity of the Holy Spirit.”

Some Early Fathers referring to the Trinity:

Ignatius of Antioch (c.105) writes “there is a Physician who is possessed both flesh and spirit; both made and not made; God existing in flesh; true life in death; both of Mary and of God; first passible and then impassable, even Jesus Christ our Lord (Ch. 7). Ignatius writes further in his Epistle to the Ephesians that he writes “by the will of the Father & Jesus Christ our God.”

Justin Martyr (c.160) writes “the First-begotten of all creation would become incarnate by the virgin’s womb, and be a child”(Ch.1.241).

Melito of Sardis (c.170) writes “Though the Son was incorporeal, He formed for Himself a body after our own fashion… He was invested with a body, but it did not circumscribe the unmixed simplicity of His Divinity… He did not cease to feed the entire world inasmuch as He is God. He put on the likeness of a servant while not impairing the likeness of His Father.”(Ch.8.756). Melito adds further “Being at once both God and Perfect man, He gave us sure indications of His two natures… HE concealed the signs of His Deity, although He was the true God existing before all ages”. (Ch. 8.175). “For the one who was born a Son, and led the slaughter as a lamb, and sacrificed as a sheep, and buried s a man, rose up from the dead as God, since He is by nature God and man.” Justin Martyr: “…the Father of the universe has a Son; who being the logos and First-begotten is also God” (First Apology 63:15).

Irenaeus: (referencing Jesus) “…in order that to Christ Jesus, our Lord, and God, and Savior, and King, according to the will of the invisible Father, . . .” (Against Heresies I, x, 1).

Clement of Alexandria: “Both as God and as man, the Lord renders us every kind of help and service. As God He forgives sin, as man He educates us to avoid sin completely” (Christ the Educator, chapter 3.1). In addition, “Our educator, O children, resembles His Father, God, whose son He is. He is without sin, without blame, without passion of soul, God immaculate in form of man accomplishing His Father’s will” (Christ the Educator Chapter 2:4).

Tertullian: “…the only God has also a Son, his Word who has proceeded from himself, by whom all things were made and without whom nothing has been made: that this was sent by the Father into the virgin and was born of her both man and God. Son of Man, Son of God, …” (Against Praxeas, 2).

Hippolytus: “And the blessed John in the testimony of his gospel, gives us an account of this economy and acknowledges this word as God, when he says, ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.’ If then the Word was with God and was also God, what follows? Would one say that he speaks of two Gods? I shall not indeed speak of two Gods, but of one; of two persons however, and of a third economy, the grace of the Holy Ghost” (Against the Heresy of One Noetus. 14).

Origen: (with regard to John 1:1) “…the arrangement of the sentences might be thought to indicate an order; we have first, ‘in the beginning was the Word,’ then ‘And the Word was with God,’ and thirdly, ‘and the Word was God,’ so that it might be seen that the Word being with God makes Him God” (Commentary on John, Book 2, Chapter 1).Solemn Saints

Reasons given for rejecting the doctrine of the Trinity include:

When anyone says, “Trinity is not EXPLICITLY mentioned in the New Testament”, they are right and all Trinitarians would agree! But Trinitarians would disagree that it is not evident in the overall pericope of Scripture. What is also noteworthy is that an explicit demand before it is deemed valid within the text implies “ontology” but rather the Biblical trinity deduced directly from the uncreated deity of Christ and the revealed person of the Holy Spirit makes it clearly evident as it is taught in the scripture. We also need to mention that words that we hold dear about the nature of God is not explicitly mentioned in Scripture as well nl: Omniscience, Omnipresence and omnipotence but surely there is no denial that these characteristics are empirically evident.

Another common objection would be that the Trinity seems to be philosophically incomprehensible and therefore should be seen as invalid. It would be no mystery to anyone that Christians make no attempt to deny or to explain away the mystery of the doctrine of the Trinity. From the very starting point the human mind is finite and the very person or idea of God indescribable. It is a high mystery that the human mind can never fathom but we do maintain that the doctrine of the Trinity is not self-contradictory as well as God’s person revealed through His Divine Son Jesus Christ. To deny the Doctrine purely on the basis of its insupposability is simply a denial of the very mystery of Divinity and seemingly renders ones concept of the Divine very myopic, the denial of His revealed nature in Scripture as a Triune God is equally benighted.

Another common objection would be the objection is not seemingly compatible with monotheism. This is simply because there would be two concepts of the Trinity that could lead to a misconception of the Trinity. Is the concept of the Trinity incompatible with absolute monotheism? When we “break down” the essential part of “God” as a whole to a mere logical construct at the expense of His overall Biblical description, we deduce the concept of God (both “Monos” & “Trinitas”) inconsistently. As a common starting point we can surely agree God is “other” and beyond our own possible concepts? Does it mean we are to be agnostic about the identity of God? Not at all. We know that we can have a convincing basis for believe in the actuality for God’s existence. Moltmann gives a pretty good clue when he wrote “in the life of the immanent Trinity everything is unique. It is only because everything in God’s nature is unique that in the ways and works of God it can be recognized as the origin of other things…we can really only tell, relate, but not sum up.” (The Trinity and the Kingdom. Pg. 190). God is not just a concept perpetuated by finite minds.

Richard BauckhamThe next objection is that the Trinity is not really necessary to explain the person of Christ as well as His preeminence. A Unitarian argument is that “if Jesus is God no other “persons” can possess the divine nature other than just as a “functional” assimilation [subordinationism] or “simply agency”. This however seems to disallow the Biblical concept that God is interrelated and mutually indwell “one another” [perichōrēsis] and therefore have a quintessential and unbreakable unity. It is also important to remember “threeness” pertains to personhood whereas the “oneness” pertains to essence or nature. The insistence that both are precluded from another refutes both “function” and “ontological” unity as deduced from Scripture. Richard Bauckham makes an interesting note when he describes “divine identity”. He writes “I find the divine identity more useful than many of these… [Agency, function, personification, hypostasis etc.]… for the Jewish religious tradition in general, what is primarily is not what God is, or what divinity is (divine nature or essence) but who God is, who YHWH the God of Israel is… He alone is supreme Ruler all else subject to His will… worship is understood as God’s qualitative uniqueness, God’s unique identity as only Creator and only Sovereign” [not only a “Quantitative” uniqueness] which is Biblically attributed to Jesus both “functionally” and “ontologically”(Heb 8:1, 12:2, Rev 3:21,5:6, 7:17, 22:3; Eph 1:20-21, 1 Pet 3:22,Rev 5:11-14). (“Jesus and the God of Israel”. Pg. 154-5&183). To therefore marginalize the “specialness” of Christ is to devastate the overall president of the New Testament Scripture.

Reasons given for accepting the doctrine of the Trinity include:

The first and most important reason we believe in the Doctrine of the Trinity is because we see Scripture reveal God as Tri-personal. Now the Trinity is a revealed Doctrine as deduced from the revelation of Christ in His commissioning of the Holy Spirit. In an earlier blog post I have written more on this: The Biblical Trinity.

Another reason Christians hold to the Doctrine of the Trinity is simply because it explains the person of Christ in His Divinity without denying monotheism. H.M. Relton reminds us “the Person of Christ bankrupts human logic…” Charles W. Lowry “this conviction is that in Jesus Christ, in His life and sacrificial death, in his whole human historical existence, we have to do, not with a man among men, not with an angel of mercy and peace, not with a great demi-god, one among many mighty powers of the universe, but with God, the Almighty God, the only God there is. To express this and to leave us in no doubt as to this meaning, the Creed says “very (or true) God”; “Begotten, not made” (as we, finite creatures are made); “Being of one substance with the Father” (an awkward translation of the words which mean: “Of the same identical being or reality as the Father”); “Who for us men and for our Salvation came down from heaven.[9]” Does the Trinity abdicate any idea of monotheism? I do not think so for the following reason:

imagesCA5A2BDTIf we say:
a) God is one and
b) God is not one;
it would clearly be a logical contradiction.

Also; if we said
1). God is three persons but also say
2). God is not three persons that would also be a contradiction!

But; Trinitarian Christians do NOT affirm a & b nor 1 & 2 rather we affirm both a & 1 therefore we do not hold to any logical contradiction because a logical contradiction is to affirm both 1&2 and a&b not 1&a. Now when we overemphasize the “threeness” within the Trinity it tends to become “Tritheistic” and if we emphasize the Oneness of God it tends to become “Modalistic”.

Gregory Nazianzen wrote: “This I give you to share, and to defend all your life, the one Godhead and power, found in the three in unit, and comprising the three separately; not unequal, in substances or natures, neither increased nor diminished by superiorities norinferiorities; in every respect equal, in every respect the same; just as the beauty and the greatness of the heavens is one; the infinite conjunction of three infinite ones, each God when considered in himself; as the Father, so the Son; as the Son, so the Holy Spirit; the three one God when contemplated together; each God because consubstantial; one God because of the monarchia. No sooner do I conceive of the one than I am illumined by the splendor of the three; no sooner do I distinguish them than I am carried back to the one. When I think of anyone of the three I think of him as the whole, and my eyes are filled, and the greater part of what I am thinking escapes me. I cannot grasp the greatness of that one so as to attribute a greater greatness to the rest. When I contemplate the three together, I see but one torch, and cannot divide or measure out the undivided light.” (Orations 40.41). Objections to the Doctrine of the Trinity usually makes use of the straw man argument. This is one that misrepresents a position in order to make it appear weaker than it actually is, refutes this misrepresentation of the position, and then concludes that the real position has been refuted. This, of course, is a fallacy, because the position that has been claimed to be refuted is different to that which has actually been refuted; the real target of the argument is untouched by it.

Example:

(1) Trinitarianism holds that three equals one.
(2) Three does not equal one.

Therefore:

(3) Trinitarianism is false.

This is an example of a straw man argument because its first premise misrepresents Trinitarianism, its second premise attacks this misrepresentation of Trinitarianism, and its conclusion states that Trinitarianism is false. Trinitarianism, of course, does not hold that three equals one, and so this argument demonstrates nothing concerning its truth.

imagesThe Third reason Christians hold to the Biblical Trinity is because of the explicit command of Christ our Lord to Worship God in “Spirit and Truth” (John 14:24). Robert Letham writes “God centered Worship must give center stage to what is distinctive of Christianity, the high water mark of God’s self revelation in the Bible.” Now the Holy Spirit reveals “the deep things of God” (1 Cor 2:10) as well as Glorifies and testifies of Christ (John 15:26, 16:14). To Worship God in Spirit is to give Him the place, Honour and Glory due to Him as revealed by the Holy Spirit and Scripture. And both the Holy Spirit and Scripture shows the Triune nature of God. Another aspect that could be taken into account is that Worshiping in truth is the opposite of worship based on an inadequate view of God. Together the words “spirit and truth” mean that real worship comes from the spirit within and is based on the true revealed view of who God is as revealed by Christ Jesus. This is acknowledged by the relational roles of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The triune relationships of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit cause us to marvel at the unity, diversity, social relationality, authority-submission structure of the triune God. God’s self revelation in Worship is Triune (Isa 6:2-3,8).

Another reason Christians hold to the Doctrine of the Trinity is because it is a measure of Orthodoxy that keeps us from heretical views on the revealed Person of Christ as well as the Biblical understanding of God. Christians deduce the concept of the Trinity not to reconcile their idea with what they want God to be, but rather because the Biblical imperative demands us to say who God has revealed Himself to be. The Doctrine is simply essential in understanding “What” and “Who” God is. This is then the measure of all other believes we construct and allows Christians to understand the relational aspects of the Godhead as well as the functional identities as revealed in Scripture.

The Trinity explains quite clearly the Historical redemptive actions wrought through the Triune God. The God of our salvation is Triune. For example, In 2 Corinthians 13:14, Paul ends off his letter with this: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” Here, Paul mentions all three Persons of the Godhead.We see the Father being the initiator of Salvation (Gal 4:4), the Son accomplishing Salvation for the World (1 Pet 3:18) and the Holy Spirit solidifying and affirming the Work of Salvation (Tit 3:5). Therefore it is very important to realize these is simply no Salvation apart from the Triune God. Without the doctrine of the Trinity we also find Scripture to be arbitrary and in some instances obscure (Ps 110:1, Gen 1:26, Gen 19:21). If we marginalize the Doctrine of the Trinity we marginalize the Gospel and ultimately remove the Christian Faith as a whole! The Christian’s growth in Christlikeness or sanctification is then rightly understood and enriched when seen as the work of the triune God.

The Doctrine of the Trinity allows for us to live holistically and complete. We pray in the knowledge of the roles of the Father, Son and Spirit as we pray to the Father, through the Son, in the power of the Spirit. We are commissioned by Christ with a blessing of Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Mat 28:19) and Baptized in the Name of the Triune God. It is interesting to note that specifically the New Testament reveals 59

Gods-Presence-400x248Triadic references to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We can also see patterns like for instance:

3 Miracles with Fish
3 Times Peter denied Jesus
3 times Peter confessed His Lord
3 People on the Cross of Calvary one died for his sin, another because of sin and Christ for our sin.
3 Witnesses witnessed His transfiguration: James, Peter and John.
Jesus rose on the 3rd day.
Now this is not conclusive proof, just interesting!

Origins of the Trinity:

No doubt that even good scholars can be troubled by the Trinity. John Henry Newman wrote “The doctrine of our Lord’s divinity itself partly implies and partly recommends the doctrine of the Trinity … First; the Creeds of that early day make no mention in their letter of the Catholic doctrine at all. They make mention indeed of a Three; but that there is any mystery in the doctrine, that the Three are One, that They are coequal, co eternal all increate, all omnipotent, all incomprehensible, is not stated and never could be gathered from them. Of course we believe that they imply it, or rather intend it.” [6] Even The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary, in its article on the Trinity, concedes that the Trinitarian concept is humanly incomprehensible: “It is admitted by all who thoughtfully deal with this subject that the Scripture revelation here leads us into the presence of a deep mystery; and that all human attempts at expression are of necessity imperfect”[7]. Cyril Richardson, professor of church history at New York’s Union Theological Seminary, said this in his book The Doctrine of The Trinity: “My conclusion, then, about the doctrine of the Trinity is that it is an artificial construct . . . It produces confusion rather than clarification; and while the problems with which it deals are real ones, the solutions it offers are not illuminating. It has posed for many Christians dark and mysterious statements, which are ultimately meaningless, because it does not sufficiently discriminate in its use of terms”.[8] One of the common objections we find when we discuss the concept of the Trinity is that the Doctrine was not evident in the Old Testament. Personally I would deny any such notion and argue that we find a definite pattern of Plurality within the Godhead very early on (Gen 1:26). The Plural “We” and “Us” in the Old Testament narratives does not point to the mere “Royal” “we” as some have argued. In another post I have shown that this is a foreign concept that was eisegeted into the text: Plural of Majesty used in the Old Testament.

worshipingAnother point to consider is that people object to the Biblical Doctrine of the Trinity purely because they believe they “violate” the inherent “Oneness” of God in the Old Testament. Firstly we need to stress that believe in One God is not enough. James, brother of Jesus writes “You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.” (James 2:19). The most important verse Jews memorized in the Bible was Deut 6:4: “Hear, O Israel! Yahweh is our God, Yahweh is one [Echad]!”

Instead the Holy Spirit chose to use the Hebrew word, “echad” which is used most often as a unified one, and sometimes as numeric oneness. For example, when God said in Genesis 2:24 “the two shall become one [echad] flesh” it is the same word for “one” that was used in Deut 6:4. In the New Testament, the word “hen” also means a unified one. To the horror of Unitarians, “hen” is used in both Mk 12:29 (which quotes Deut 6:4) and Mt 19:5 (which quotes Gen 2:24).

Dr Michael Brown “Actually, ’echad simply means ‘one,’ exactly like our English word ‘one.’ While it can refer to compound unity (just as our English word can, as in one team, one couple, etc.), it does not specifically refer to compound unity. On the other hand, ‘echad certainly does not refer to the concept of absolute unity, an idea expressed most clearly in the twelfth century by Moses Maimonides, who asserted that the Jewish people must believe that God is yachid, an ‘only’ one. There is no doubt that this reaction was due to exaggerated, unbiblical, ‘Christian’ beliefs that gave Jews the impression Christians worshiped three gods. Unfortunately, the view of Maimonides is reactionary and also goes beyond what is stated in the Scriptures. In fact, there is not a single verse anywhere in the Bible that clearly or directly states that God is an absolute unity.”[10]

The Old Testament show very descriptively that there is a persistent plurality in the Working of the Godhead.

Here follows a few Scriptures that clearly denotes the plural working within the text:Surrender

“Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven,” (Genesis 19:24)

 Amos 4:11 has two Yahweh’s just like Gen 19:24 when talking about the exact same event!: “Yet you have not returned to Me, [Father]” declares Yahweh [Father]. “I [Father] overthrew you, as God [Son] overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, And you were like a firebrand snatched from a blaze; Yet you have not returned to Me [Father]” declares Yahweh [Father].” For Unitarians, Gen 19:24 + Amos 4:11 is a like getting struck by lightening twice in the same place!

“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of uprightness is the scepter of Your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You With the oil of joy above Your fellows. “ (Psalm 45:6-7)

“For My own sake, for My own sake, I will act; For how can My name be profaned? And My glory I will not give to another. “Listen to Me, O Jacob, even Israel whom I called; I am He, I am the first, I am also the last. “Surely My hand founded the earth, And My right hand spread out the heavens; When I call to them, they stand together. “Assemble, all of you, and listen! Who among them has declared these things? The Lord loves him; he will carry out His good pleasure on Babylon, And His arm will be against the Chaldeans. “I, even I, have spoken; indeed I have called him, I have brought him, and He will make his ways successful. “Come near to Me, listen to this: From the first I have not spoken in secret, From the time it took place, I was there. And now the Lord God has sent Me, and His Spirit.” Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you to profit, Who leads you in the way you should go. ” (Isa 48:11-17)

“But I will have compassion on the house of Judah and deliver them by Yahweh their God, and will not deliver them by bow, sword, battle, horses or horsemen.” (Hosea 1:7)

“Thus says Yahweh, the King of Israel And his Redeemer, Yahweh of hosts: ‘I am the first and I am the last, And there is no God besides Me. (Isa 44:6)

Thus says Yahweh, the Holy One of Israel, and his Maker: “Ask Me about the things to come concerning My sons, And you shall commit to Me the work of My hands. (Isa 45:11)

“Behold, the days are coming,” declares Yahweh, “When I shall raise up for David a righteous Branch; And He will reign as king and act wisely And do justice and righteousness in the land. 6 “In His days Judah will be saved, And Israel will dwell securely; And this is His name by which He will be called, ‘Yahweh our righteousness.'” (Jer 23:5-6)

For thus says Yahweh of hosts, “After glory He has sent me against the nations which plunder you, for he who touches you, touches the apple of His eye.9 “For behold, I will wave My hand over them, so that they will be plunder for their slaves. Then you will know that Yahweh of hosts has sent Me.10 “Sing for joy and be glad, O daughter of Zion; for behold I am coming and I will dwell in your midst,” declares Yahweh.11 “And many nations will join themselves to Yahweh in that day and will become My people. Then I will dwell in your midst, and you will know that Yahweh of hosts has sent Me to you. (Zech 2:8-11)

“And I shall strengthen them in Yahweh, And in His name they will walk,” declares Yahweh. (Zech 10:12)

“And I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him, like the bitter weeping over a first-born. (Zech 12:10)

“Do not fear, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel; I will help you,” declares Yahweh, “and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.” (Is 41:14)

prodigal_sonWe can clearly see that the concept of the Trinity is implicitly evident within the text of the Old Testament as well as the Plurality of the Godhead clearly affirmed.Further we need to understand what the Ancient near eastern Cultures held dear when they referred to the One God.

Ancient Near Eastern Cultures:
Theologian Richard Bauckham affirms extreme monotheism “became a facet of Jewish monotheism only later.[11]” Scholar of Rabbinics Jewish Scholar Jacob Neusner wrote “the system laid out in the Mishnah takes up and disposes of those critical issues of teleology worked out through messianic eschatology in other, earlier versions of Judaism. These earlier systems resorted to the myth of the Messiah as Saviour and Redeemer of Israel, a supernatural figure engaged in political-historical tasks as king of the Jews, even a God-man facing the crucial historical questions of Israel’s life and resolving them: the Christ as king of the world, of the ages, of death itself.” [12] This would indirectly imply that the Messiah would be part of the eternal Godhead not as a mere intermediary figure but as God Himself. Further the scholar John Collins writes that “the notion of a messiah who was in some sense divine had its roots in Judaism, in the interpretation of such passages as Psalm 2 and Daniel 7 in an apocalyptic context… and the later Christian understanding of the divinity of Christ… the notion that the messiah was Son of God in a special sense was rooted in Judaism, and so there was continuity between Judaism and Christianity in this respect…” [The scepter and the Star]. Theologian N.T.Wright to affirm “about the nature and variety of early Jewish monotheism… we have very few examples of ‘pure’ monotheism anywhere, including in the Hebrew Bible… from the Maccabaean revolt to Bar-Kochba – there is no suggestion that ‘monotheism’, or praying the Shema, had anything to do with the numerical analysis of the inner being of Israel’s god Himself… we find strong evidence during this period of Jewish groups and individuals who, speculating on the meaning of some difficult passages of Scripture (Dan 7; Gen 1) suggested that the Divine being might encompass a plurality…but none of these show any awareness that they are transgressing normal Jewish monotheism.” He affirms that later with the “rise of Christianity… [and the influence of] Hellenizing Philosophy], that Jews in the second and subsequent centuries reinterpreted ‘monotheism’ as ‘the numerical oneness of the Divine Being.[13]”

 Formation of the Concept of the Trinity:

New Bible Dictionary says, “The necessity to formulate the doctrine was thrust upon the Church by forces from without, and it was, in particular, its faith in the deity of Christ, and the necessity to defend it, that first compelled the Church to face the duty of formulating a full doctrine of the Trinity for its rule of faith.”[3] The Encyclopedia of Religion “In the immediate post New Testament period of the Apostolic Fathers no attempt was made to work out the God-Christ (Father-Son) relationship in ontological terms. By the end of the fourth century, and owing mainly to the challenge posed by various heresies, theologians went beyond the immediate testimony of the Bible and also beyond liturgical and creedal expressions of Trinitarian faith to the ontological trinity of coequal persons “within” God. The shift is from function to ontology, from the “economic trinity” (Father, Son, and Spirit in relation to us) to the “immanent” or “essential Trinity” (Father, Son, and Spirit in relation to each other). It was prompted chiefly by belief in the divinity of Christ and later in the divinity of the Holy Spirit, but even earlier by the consistent worship of God in a Trinitarian pattern and the practice of baptism into the threefold name of God. By the close of the fourth century the orthodox teaching was in place: God is one nature, three persons (mia ousia, treis hupostaseis). [4]Angel face

It should also be noted that the Divinity of Christ was not a Pauline invention or a Nicaean indoctrination.

Supposed Pagan connections of the Trinity:

Walter Martin wrote “In order to find out if the doctrine of the Trinity is true, we do not look to see if it resembles paganism, but to the bible, to see if God teaches it in his word. Pagans also believe in the concept of God. does this mean that God must not be true? Pagans sleep. Does that mean sleeping is wrong ? We must not dismiss an idea merely because it is held in common with those whom we may not approve.” (the New Cults p.49)

Theologian Bernard Lohse “First, it is important to note that the doctrine of the Trinity does not go back to non-Christian sources [pagan], as has sometimes been supposed in the past. There has been no lack of attempts to find the initial form of the doctrine of the Trinity in Plato, or in Hinduism, or in Parsiism. All such attempts may be regarded today as having floundered. It is another question, of course, whether or not the church, in developing the doctrine of the Trinity, had recourse to certain thought forms already present in the philosophical and religious environment, in order that, with the help of these, it might give its own faith clear intellectual expression. This question must definitely be answered in the affirmative. In particular cases the appropriation of this concept or that can often be proved. Unfortunately, however, it is true that particularly in reference to the beginnings of the doctrine of the Trinity there is still much uncertainty. In this area final clarity has not yet been achieved. As far as the New Testament is concerned, one does not find in it an actual doctrine of the Trinity. This does not mean very much, however, for generally speaking the New Testament is less intent upon setting forth certain doctrines than it is upon proclaiming the kingdom of God, a kingdom that dawns in and with the person of Jesus Christ. At the same time, however, there are in the New Testament the rudiments of a concept of God that was susceptible of further development and clarification, along doctrinal lines. … Speaking first of the person of Jesus Christ … In other passages of the New Testament the predicate “God” is without a doubt applied to Christ [5]

why-context-is-king-in-the-future-of-digital-marketing-4c906b41daComparative Religions Scholar Steve Rudd writes that: “In collecting data on ancient paganism and idolatry, there are examples of “Twinities: 2” “Trinities: 3” “Quadites: 4” and “Quintities: 5” etc. Anti-Trinitarians search through the thousands of pagan gods of history and look for any theme of three, while ignoring all the themes of 2,4,5. Of course, the cultures that worshipped these gods did not view them as “trinities”, but irresponsible theologians and historians make something out of nothing! For example, Anti-Trinitarians actually argue that “Zeus, Hades and Poseidon” were a trinity god, and one of the sources where Christians borrowed trinity from. This is simply nonsense! Everyone knows they were not a trinity! (It is rank polytheism!) Anti-Trinitarians find three brothers who each got control of one of three things: sky, earth, underworld, and they call it a trinity! What about the “Quinity” god of the four winds! Or the “Twinity” god of Sun and Moon! Or the “twelve in one” god of the constellations that make up the zodiac? It is completely dishonest and deceptive to arbitrarily highlight the incidence of “trinities” and totally ignore “2 in 1″ 4 in 1” “5 in 1” pagan concepts of God. Talk about self made religion!” [15].

“Is the Trinity pagan? The pagan religions had what we call trinities however on closer examination they are not the same in concept or substance. In the same way we would not agree with all the other religions that have a strict monotheistic view of God to be embraced as the same God of the Bible. (Islam, Bahai) The pagan concept was encapsulated with a Father, Mother, giving birth to a Son. They were three major Gods with many minor god’s as well. Their trinity was comprised of three Gods not one. The Greek triad of Zeus, Athena, and Apollo, the Hindu triad of Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva the Egyptian triad of Isis, Horus, and Sub bear no resemblance to the Biblical Trinity. They were all separate not united as the one God and almost unanimously had a mother involved as in a heavenly family. This was really tritheism, which has more in common with Mormonism than a triune God. Anti Trinitarians make usage of the statues with three heads and saying that is our pagan God. If one is going to discount the Trinity because of some similarities in name only and not in substance. Then maybe they should be looking at their own pagan similarities. One can still be in idolatry, if their one God is not the God of the Bible”. [18].

africaInteresting that we find Triple Deities in the History of World Religions as well as Singular Monotheistic Gods. But to be fair no one in their right minds will equate their mere quantity as being the same in quality? When we honestly asses the concept of the Trinity we can see that the following examples at the bottom is not similar at all in any way or form any more than “Ahura Mazda” from Zoroastrianism or “Mukuru” from Tribal African religions being similar to “Allah” from Islam?

Alexander Hislop, in his book, “the two Babylon’s”, traces the history of the practices and traditions of the Roman Catholic church. He writes on pg. 18, “All these forms have existed from ancient times, while overcome with idolatry, the recognition of the Trinity was universal, proving how deep rooted in the human race was the doctrine on the subject , which comes out so distinctly in Genesis” Robert watts in New Apologetic says “The Pagan triads are “residuary fragments of their lost knowledge of God, not different stages in a process of evolution. But evidence of a moral and spiritual degradation”…While their are Pagan Trinities which can be traced back to Babylon, instead of supporting anti Trinitarian views such as the Watchtower literature promotes, it is evidence for the tri-une God. Lets not try to find all kinds of perversions from the outside that have nothing to do with the Biblical record, lets go to the Scripture to prove our major points Hislop writes that many pagan religions held to one infinite God the creator. Strict monotheism is found in Islam and a few other religions. Are we now to accept their view because God is called one (singular). [19].

Let us look at a few:

Babylon: Nimrod, Semiramas, and Tammuz:

nimrod semiramis and tammuzEaston’s Bible Dictionary says: “Nimrod: is firm, a descendant of Cush, the son of Ham. He was the first who claimed to be a “mighty one in the earth.” Babel was the beginning of his kingdom, which he gradually enlarged (Gen 10:8-10). The “land of Nimrod” (Mic 5:6) is a designation of Assyria or of Shinar, which is a part of it.”

Genesis 10:8-10 (HCSB) reads:
8 Cush fathered Nimrod, who was the first powerful man on earth. 9 He was a powerful hunter in the sight of the Lord. That is why it is said, “Like Nimrod, a powerful hunter in the sight of the Lord.” 10 His kingdom started with Babylon,Erech, Accad,and Calneh, in the land of Shinar.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh “The religion of the Persians was Zoroastrianism, a dualistic belief in good and evil and man’s struggle between them. Although it was less bloody, warlike, idolatrous, and superstitious than other polytheistic religions of the region, it retained vestiges of ancient beliefs that eventually supplanted it. The cults of Mithra, the sun god, and Anaita, the goddess of fertility—similar to Nimrod/Tammuz and Semiramis, the old Babylonian Mystery Religion—grew in popularity until Zoroastrianism faded into obscurity. But its principle of dualism lived on in Gnosticism and the mystery religions of the Roman Empire”. [17].

I simply could not find ANY source predating Early Christianity that seemingly mentioned a Triad which includes: Nimrod, Semiramas, and Tammuz. Secondly the very description of the Story of Nimrod is nowhere clearly evident and the very descriptive idea of the Trinity NOWHERE evident. Modern Sources frequently tries to make the narratives appear parallel to the Biblical Narratives but fail to do so simply because they quote themselves as the sources or quote sources that are very late. There is simply NO evidence that shows the concept of the Biblical Trinity was ever influenced by this legend. [Mail me here if you have found any such sources].

Egyptian Osiris, Isis, and Horus:

Osiris, Isis, and HorusIsis – a female goddess.
Osiris – husband of Isis.
Horus – son of Isis and Osiris.

“A hymn to Amun written in the 14th century BC distinguishes the Egyptian trinity: “All Gods are three: Amun, Re, Ptah: they have no equal. His name is hidden as Amun, he is Re before [men], and his body is Ptah.” (Hornung, 219)

This “triad” was not considered one God (as in Christianity) but rather three separate gods or a Tritheism. The sources seem late and the concept of this being a Trinity quite obscure. It is also noteworthy these were not the only “gods” in the Egyptian Pantheon There were a plethora of “gods” that were tied to nature as well as to the cyclical seasons of harvest. But nothing here that even slightly resembles the Biblical understanding of the Trinity.

Israel pagan Gnosticism it was Kether, Hokhmah, and Binah:

“Binah is the womb from which all souls are born, Chokmah the energy that the soul is made of, and Kether the idea of the soul within the Monad itself. In fact at the level of the Supernal Triad, Kether is the self-realization of the Supreme Being that emanates from En Sof, Chokmah is its Living Spirit and Creational Force, and Binah is its Supernal Soul Body through which the Spirit may interact with the lower realms of creation. The soul has always been associated with a feminine energy by Kabbalists as well as many other traditions” [20].Kether, Hokhmah, and Binah

By this explanation everyone is “born” or part of the “Triadic Mother Gods” and there is a clear triad but “Before the beginning of creation there was only En Sof. En Sof was everything, yet no-thing, everywhere and nowhere, all potential but nothing manifest…” Trinitarians do not hold that there was a supreme God who emanated or created the other two later? The concept of the Trinity seems quite foreign to Kabbalistic Tritheism. This Triadic system also seems to be solely focused on creation and the beginning of life itself where as we have seen above the Biblical Trinity encompass various aspects of the Christian life and relation.

Plato’s philosophy (Neoplatonism) : The Unknown Father, Nous/Logos, and the world soul:

PlotinusTriadGreek Philosophy undoubtedly spawned Early Gnosticism as well as rank Mysticism. “Neoplatonism is generally a metaphysical and epistemological philosophy. Neoplatonism is a form of idealistic monism (also called theistic monism) and combines elements of Polytheism (see Monistic-polytheism). Although the founder of Neoplatonism is supposed to have been Ammonius Saccas, the Enneads of his pupil Plotinus are the primary and classical document of Neoplatonism. As a form of mysticism, it contains theoretical and practical parts, the first dealing with the high origin of the human soul showing how it has departed from its first estate, and the second showing the way by which the soul may again return to the Eternal and Supreme. The system can be divided between the invisible world and the phenomenal world, the former containing the transcendent One from which emanates an eternal, perfect, essence (nous), which, in turn, produces the world-soul.” In concept early Platonism would not even come close to describe Biblical Trinitarianism. Neoplatonism essentially reduces the Divine from the concept of the “I” where the Biblical understanding of man is reduced rather from the “Us” (Gen 1:26-27).

The Trimurti of the three Hindu Gods: Brahmā,Vishnu, and Shiva:

trimurtiHistorian A. L. Basham says that “Early western students of Hinduism were impressed by the parallel between the Hindu trinity and that of Christianity. In fact the parallel is not very close, and the Hindu trinity, unlike the Holy Trinity of Christianity, never really “caught on”. All Hindu trinitarianism tended to favor one god of the three; thus, from the context it is clear that Kālidāsa’s hymn to the Trimūrti is really addressed to Brahmā, here looked on as the high god. The Trimūrti was in fact an artificial growth, and had little real influence [14].

 Scholar/Historian R. C. Majumdar writes that “Its most notable expression is to be found in the theological conception of the Trimūrti, i.e., the manifestation of the supreme God in three forms of Brahmā, Viṣṇu, and Śiva… But the attempt cannot be regarded as a great success, for Brahmā never gained an ascendancy comparable to that of Śiva or Viṣṇu, and the different sects often conceived the Trimūrti as really the three manifestations of their own sectarian god, whom they regarded as Brahman or Absolute [16].

There seems to be no direct similarity with the Biblical concept of the Trinity. In fact Hinduism is probably one of the most polytheistic religions in the World. To even suggest there are intrinsic similarities is to suffer from a serious case of parallelomania.

Logic of Parallelomania:

Similarities in any allegory is exactly just that, they are only similarities, not exact parallels!
The very assumption of “dying and rising gods” has been called into question by most serious and contemporary scholars and when each of these so called myths are analyzed there seem to be little correlation between the story of Christ and them.Even if we grant that certain parallels exist between the story of Christ and supposed pagan myths it does not prove that the life, death and resurrection of Christ is not historical. There is absolutely no evidence for a line of influence from pagan stories to the early Church of whom the majority was strict monotheistic Jews who died for One God Christ and denied the plurality of the Roman gods and myths.There is more evidence that ancient pagan religions adapted and took the historical narrative from the life of Christ and added it to their own stories to make it more relevant & syncretistic to challenge a fast growing Christian Church rather than Christians adapting to pagan mythology.

Again! Similarities are NOT exact parallels… Let me sum up the supposed fallacies regarding pagan deities and the Historical person of Jesus Christ:

Speak outComposite Fallacy:
Pagan religions are often lumped together as if they were one religion and that it is virtually identical to Historical Christianity in many of its collective features. This is simply being naïve of the very nature of these religions as a whole and is an ungrounded attempt to pervert Christianity. Bruce Metzger reminds us that at the very time of these particular mystery cults they all had very different ideas in an overall context and religious intention. Robert Nash affirms “We find that there was NO pre-Christian doctrine of rebirth for the Christians to borrow.”

Terminological Fallacy:
Similarities in any allegory is exactly just that, they are only similarities, not exact parallels! Robert Nash adds; “one frequently encounter scholars who first use Christian terminology to describe pagan beliefs and practices and then marvel at the awesome parallels they think they have discovered.” Bruce Metzger affirms “It goes without saying that alleged parallels which are discovered by pushing such methodology evaporate when they are confronted with the original text. In a word, one must beware of what have been called, ‘parallels made by selective description.”

The Dependency Fallacy:
This happens when the interpreters believe that Christianity borrowed not only from but also the substance of the mystery religions and turned this into a new religion. Also, the presence of supposed parallels does NOT necessarily indicate any kind of borrowing. Those who seem to press for parallels and dependence seem to ignore the universal similarity of human experiences that underlie specific cultural forms.

The Chronology Fallacy:
The First century Church was predominantly composed of Palestinian Jews. This would simply imply that any first century Jewish Mindset loathed syncretism. The exclusivism purely extended to Jesus Christ in His person and work! The Jews refused to blend their believes and religion with other Roman believes and religions. Secondly there is NO archaeological evidence today for mystery religions in Palestine in the first century.

The Intentional Fallacy:
When one examines the purpose and the nature of the nature of the mystery religions versus the purpose and nature of Christianity, huge differences surface. One particular difference is that Christianity has a linear view of history where the mystery cults had a cyclical view of history. The Christian proclamation offered genuine purpose in life where the mystery religions looked at life as a circular movement leading nowhere.

In conclusion:

We can clearly see that the very idea of the Trinity is Bible based and surely not man made. The supposed similarities can be dismissed as mere vagueries.

Rb picRudolph P. Boshoff

Sources:
[1] The Knowledge of the Holy Pg.11
[2] The Trinity and the Kingdom. Pg. 190
[3] New Bible Dictionary, J. D. Douglas & F. F. Bruce, Trinity, p 1298
[4] The Encyclopedia of Religion, Mircea Eliade, Trinity, Vol 15, p53-57
[5] A Short History of Christian Doctrine, Bernard Lohse, 1966, p37-39
[6] Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, John Henry Newman, a cardinal by Pope Leo III in 1879, 1878, p40-42
[7] 1988, p. 1308.
[8] 1958, pp. 148-149
[9] The Trinity and Christian Devotion. Pg.61
[10] Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus: Theological Objections [Baker Books, Grand Rapids MI, 2000], Volume Two, p. 4
[11] pg159: Jesus and the God of Israel
[12] Judaism and their Messiahs at the turn of the Christian era
[13] The New Testament and the people of God: Pg.258-259.
[14] Basham, A. L. (1954). The Wonder That Was India: A Survey of the Culture of the Indian Sub-Continent Before The Coming of the Muslims. New York: Grove Press, Inc.
[15] Steve Rudd.
[16] Majumdar, R. C. “Evolution of Religio-Philosophic Culture in India”, in: Radhakrishnan (CHI, 1956), volume 4, p. 49.
[17] Nebuchadnezzar’s Image (Part Two): Chest and Arms of Silver
[18] http://www.letusreason.org/Trin8.htm
[19] Augustus H. Strongs systematic Theology p.352.
[20] http://www.universalkabbalah.net/SupernalTriad
[21] The Gospel and the Greeks Nash R.

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