The Trinity Doctrine
info This commentary was written by a volunteer for our Bible translation project. It’s not an official view of our project; we are not a religious denomination and we do not establish doctrine. These commentaries reflect a variety of views and some disagree with each other.
- Trinity Explained
- Origin of The Trinity
- Does the Bible Support the Idea of the Trinity?
- What Does The Bible Teach?
- What About the Holy Spirit?
- Questions for Trinitarians to Examine
The inspiration for writing this paper began with a discussion between a neighbor and myself. She, believing in the Trinity as a doctrine of her faith, would like to convince me that it is scriptural. I on the other hand, professing no particular formal religious belief, find the doctrine to be illogical, beyond human comprehension and unsupported in the Bible.
We both set out to do research on the subject in order to support our beliefs.
This paper is a compilation of Internet research and discussions and materials received by me from my parents. My approach to this subject is in terms of logic and what makes sense to me.
All Christian religions claim to get their basic beliefs and doctrines for their religion from the Bible. But when asked to explain the trinity, they tell you it’s a mystery of faith that cannot be understood.
- Why would such a basic foundation of Christianity be so confusing and hard to explain?
- Wouldn’t Jesus use his ability as the Great Teacher to make the Trinity clear to his followers?
- In view of the statement that God is ‘not a God of confusion’ (1 Corinthians 14:33), would He be responsible for a doctrine about him that is so confusing that even Hebrew, Greek and Latin scholars cannot really explain?
- Why, for thousands of years, did none of God’s prophets teach his people about the Trinity?
- Would God inspire hundreds of pages of Scripture and yet not use any of this instruction to teach the Trinity if it were the ‘central doctrine’ of faith?
For quite some time, the trinity doctrine has been an extremely controversial subject.
The word ‘trinity’ does not appear in the Bible anywhere.
How then, did it become a major part of modern-day religion?
The explanation of the trinity by Trinitarians is extremely confusing. Trinitarians teach that there are three persons, but one essence – all equal. The most distinctive doctrine of the trinity is that of the personality and deity of the Holy Spirit. The term ‘trinity’ is not a Bible term; it is a man-made term.
To believe in the trinity is to believe that there is a unity of the heavenly beings:
- There are three co-eternal, co-equal persons, the same in substance, but different in individuality.
- There are three persons – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
- Now these three are truly distinct one from another, and yet they are all one.
The Nicene Creed reads that:
‘The Heavenly Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God, and yet there are not three Gods, just one.’
This appraisal of the trinity would lead one to believe that the Father must be His own son, and the Son must be His own Father, and that the third entity, the Holy Spirit, is equal to the first two, the three being one, yet different.
Isn’t this hard to explain? Not for a Trinitarian. They conclude this explanation with the famous phrase:
‘It’s a great mystery of faith.’
It is truly a mystery.
Origin of The Trinity
All Pagan religions from the time of Babylon have adopted (in one form or another) a Trinity doctrine or a triad or trinity of gods. Long before the Christian era, numerous variations of the trinity existed, and they were found in a host of pagan religions and mythologies. As with so many other pre-Christian traditional customs and practices, the revival of this doctrine in the Christian era was predictable. It was essential that followers be able to see Christianity – their ‘new’ religion – in familiar terms.
Triad deities (the worship of a three-in-one god) first appeared in ancient Egypt about three centuries after the Great Flood of Noah’s time. These Egyptian deities came to be worshiped as Osiris, Isis and Horus.
After the destruction of the Tower of Babel, Nimrod and his mother-wife Semiramis, the first rulers of Babylon, fled to Egypt. There, Nimrod (known as Ninus or Athothis, among numerous other names) shared rulership with his father Cush (Menes) in the first dynasty. After Nimrod’s death, Semiramis claimed his son Horus to have been Nimrod reincarnated. These three – Osiris (Nimrod), Isis (Semiramis) and Horus (the son) – came to be exalted as a triad of deities.
There is no evidence the Apostles of Jesus ever heard of a Trinity. Also, the Bible does not teach the doctrine of the Trinity. For neither the word Trinity itself, nor such language as one in three, three in one, one essence or substance or three persons, is biblical language. Rather, the language of the doctrine is the language of the ancient Church, taken not from the Bible but from classical Greek philosophy.
Long before the founding of Christianity the idea of a triune god or a god-in-three persons was a common belief in ancient religions. Although many of these religions had many minor deities, they distinctly acknowledged that there was one supreme God who consisted of three persons or essences.
- The Babylonians used an equilateral triangle to represent this three-in-one god.
- The Greek triad was composed of Zeus, Athena and Apollo. These three were said by the pagans to ‘agree in one.’
One of the largest pagan temples built by the Romans was constructed at Ballbek (situated in present day Lebanon) to their Trinity of Jupiter, Mercury and Venus.
In Babylon, the planet Venus was revered as special and was worshipped as a Trinity consisting of Venus, the moon and the sun. This triad became the Babylonian holy Trinity in the fourteenth century before Christ.
Although other religions for thousands of years before Christ was born worshipped a triune god, the Trinity was not a part of Christian dogma and formal documents of the first three centuries after Christ. That there was no formal, established doctrine of the Trinity until the fourth century is a fully documented historical fact. Clearly, historians of church dogma and systematic theologians agree that the idea of a Christian Trinity was not a part of the first century church. For the twelve apostles never subscribed to it or received revelation about it.
So, how then did a Trinitarian doctrine come about? It gradually evolved and gained momentum in late first, second and third centuries as pagans, who had converted to Christianity, brought to Christianity some of their pagan beliefs and practices.
The modern belief in the trinity originated in the 4th century at the Council of Nicaea in approximately 325 C.E. King Constantine, the Roman Emperor and an adherent to paganism, presided over the Council. Its main purpose was to unite the Roman Empire by achieving agreement on Christian doctrine. This would promote a universal consolidation within the church.
As the council proceeded, there were two distinct sides, which the Archdeacon Athanasius of Alexandria, Egypt upheld regarding the trinity. Arius fought for the opposition; but after long weeks of debate, the admitted pagan, Pontifex Maximus Constantine, ruled in favor of the Trinitarian teaching of Athanasius, the Egyptian.
Egypt, one of the oldest civilizations in the world, had long before adopted the pagan belief of the trinity. One of the most famous Egyptian trinities was that of Horus, Isis, and Seb (HIS), a trinity that consisted of father, mother, and son, and a concept that also traces back to Babylonian ancestry.
History teaches that much later, after instituting a mandatory belief in the trinity, Constantine tried to be more tender and merciful with the decision, but it was too late. The Nicene Creed (also known as the Athenasian Creed) had taken hold, so all who did not believe in the trinity doctrine were persecuted and killed. Every available instrument of torture was used on the nonbeliever.
The Nicene Creed has since been amended, but it is still read today in many of the Protestant and Catholic churches. Those churches that associate themselves with the World Council of Churches now require belief in the trinity doctrine.
Does the Bible Support the Idea of the Trinity?
While the word Trinity is not found in the Bible, is the concept of the Trinity taught clearly in it?
The Encyclopedia of Religion Vol. 15 1987 admits:
‘Theologians today are in agreement that the Hebrew Bible does not contain a doctrine of the Trinity.’
The New Catholic Encyclopedia:
‘The doctrine of the Holy Trinity is not taught in the Old Testament.’
The Encyclopedia of Religion says:
‘Theologians agree that the New Testament also does not contain an explicit doctrine of the Trinity.’
The Encyclopedia Britannica 1976 observes:
Neither the word Trinity nor the explicit doctrine appears in the New Testament.’
Protestant theologian Karl Barth (as quoted in The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology 1976) similarly states:
‘The New Testament does not contain the developed doctrine of the Trinity. The Bible lacks the express declaration the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are of equal essence.’
What Does The Bible Teach?
While Jesus is often called the Son of God in the Bible, nobody in the first century ever thought of him as being ‘God the Son.’ Even the demons, which ‘believe there is one God,’ knew from their experience in the spirit realm that Jesus was not God. For, they addressed Jesus as the separate Son of God. Matthew 8:28, 29 refers to the demons speaking to Jesus through a possessed man, saying:
‘What have we to do with you, Son of God?’
They did not refer to Jesus as ‘God the Son.’ Also, when Jesus died, the pagan Roman soldiers that were standing by said:
‘Certainly this was God’s Son.’ (Matthew 27:54).
The disciples viewed Jesus as the ‘one mediator between God and men,’ (1 Timothy 2:5) not as God himself. A mediator by definition is someone separate from those who need mediation.
The apostle Peter clearly makes the distinction of Father and Son and that Jesus had a God that resurrected him, by saying:
‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ for according to his great mercy he gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.’ (1 Peter 1:3).
The apostle Paul similarly states:
‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for he has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in union with Christ.’ (Ephesians 1:3)
So, what did Jesus teach? Did He come preaching that He was equal to the Mighty One of this world? Where did he get all of His knowledge? He got it from the same place any son does – from His Father. He said, in John 15:15:
‘For all things that I heard of My Father I have made known to you.’
One can conclude that he was passing on the knowledge he learned from his Father, down to his disciples. Notice that in many scriptures, Jesus refers to God as his Father, as the authority figure if you will. He never calls God, his partner, or his co-worker as if to infer that he was an equal.
Now, if Jesus were equal to the Father, He would know all the things that God knows! But that is not the case as we see in John 5:19. The Messiah said:
‘Most truly I say to you, the Son cannot do a single thing of his own initiative, but only what he beholds the Father doing.’
Also, (Matthew 24:3) when his disciples asked Jesus while sitting upon the Mount of Olives:
‘Tell us, When will these things be and what will be the sign of your presence and of the conclusion of the system of things'?
Jesus goes on to describe the signs but then he says:
‘Concerning that day and hour nobody knows, neither the angels of the heavens nor the Son, but only the Father.’ (Matthew 24:36)
‘You have heard that I said to you, I am going away and I am coming back to you. If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going my way to the Father, because the Father is greater than I am.’
Jesus is very clear in the fact that He is NOT equal with His Father.
Jesus showed that he was a creature separate from God and that he, Jesus, had a God above him, a God whom he worshiped, a God whom he called ‘Father.’ In prayer to God, Jesus said:
‘Father, the hour has come: glorify your son, that your son may glorify you. This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God and of the one whom you sent forth. So now you, Father, glorify me alongside yourself with the glory that I had alongside you before the world was.’ (John 17:1-5).
But Jesus did say:
‘I and the Father are one.’ (John 10:30)
Notice that here again, that statement does not even suggest a ‘trinity,’ since he spoke of only two as being one, not three. This statement can be better explained by the expression that he himself made clear later when he prayed regarding his followers that, ‘they may be one just as we are one.’ (John 17:22)
Jesus and his Father are ‘one’ in that Jesus is in full harmony with his Father. He prayed that all his followers might also be in harmony with his Father, with Jesus and with one another.
Jesus, when speaking to Mary Magdalene said:
‘Stop clinging to me. For I have not yet ascended to the Father. But be on your way to my brothers and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father and to my God and your God.’ (John 20:17).
The apostle Paul expresses it best as he introduces the true God of the Bible:
‘For even though there are those who are called ‘gods,’ whether in heaven or in earth, just as there are many gods and many lords, there is actually to us one God the Father, out of whom all things are, and we for him and there is one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things are, and we through him.’ (1 Cor. 8:5-7).
It is interesting that Paul references ‘the Father’ and ‘Jesus Christ,’ thus differentiating them from all other ‘gods’ and ‘lords,’ but, missing the perfect opportunity, he fails to mention the Holy Spirit, the supposed third member of the trinity.
What About the Holy Spirit?
Is the Holy Spirit an individual? Is it the third person of the trinity? Well, if it is, then it should have equal share with the Father and Son, shouldn’t it?
We are introduced to God’s spirit or active force in Genesis 1:2:
‘And the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.’
When Gabriel was speaking to Mary about her miraculous conception of Jesus, Gabriel says:
‘This one will be great and will be called Son of the Most High and Jehovah God will give him the throne of David his father and he will rule as king over the house of Jacob forever, there will no end of his kingdom’ –Luke 1:30-33
Here the Father gives his son a throne, but no mention of doing the same with the Holy Spirit.
In John 1:1 we see that, in the beginning, there was the Father and the Word. Why wasn’t the Holy Spirit included with them?
Note that most Trinitarians use this verse to support their belief in a Trinity. However at most, this verse brings into discussion a duality not a trinity.
In Acts 7:55, Stephen looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God and of Jesus standing at His right hand. But he failed to mention the Holy Spirit. If Jesus were at His right hand, wouldn’t the Holy Spirit have been at His left?
During the day of Pentecost, Acts 2:4, 33, shows that ‘they all became filled with holy spirit.’ Were those Christians ‘filled’ with a person? That would not be possible, but they certainly could be filled with active energy, or force emanating from Almighty God.
The Holy Spirit can be described as a force of God. When Jesus was baptized in Matthew 3:16, we see the heavens were opened up and Jesus saw descending like a dove God’s spirit coming upon him. There was a voice from heaven that said this is my Son, the beloved whom I have approved.
Acts 10:38 describes how God anointed Jesus with holy spirit and power which he used to do good, healing all that were oppressed by the Devil, because God was with him. The Holy Spirit is the power or force of God sent out from God to do His work.
God’s spirit is something that those serving God receive and are guided by it. 1 Corinthians 2:10-12 states:
‘[We] receive not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is from God, that we might know the things that have been kindly given us by God.
If the ‘Godhead’ consists of three co-equal persons, the Holy Spirit being the third one, then why didn’t Jesus, the Messiah, call the Holy Spirit His Father?
We are told in Matthew 1:20 that Mary’s child was conceived by the Holy Spirit.
Are Christians to believe that centuries after Christ and after having inspired the writing of the Bible, God would back the formulation of a doctrine that was unknown to his servants for thousands of years, one that is an ‘inscrutable (difficult to fathom or understand) mystery,’ that is ‘beyond the grasp of human reason,’ one that admittedly had a pagan background and was ’largely a matter of church politics?’
It is claimed that several scriptures support the Trinity. However when carefully examined they offer no actual support. We must ask ourselves: Does the interpretation harmonize with the consistent teaching of the entire Bible? If not, then the interpretation must be in error. The Bible, God’s inspired word, does not contradict itself.
We also need to keep in mind that not even one scripture in the Bible exactly states that all three are the same in substance, power and eternity.
From the New Testament, we find ample evidence of an apostasy (2 Thessalonians 2:3) having occurred, pulling believers away from the truth. Notice the many warnings about false apostles and a false movement that already existed in the first century and that was threatening the true teachings of Christ.
Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 4:1-3 that:
‘In later periods of time some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to misleading inspired utterances and teachings of demons, by the hypocrisy of men who speak lies.’
2 Corinthians 11:13, 14:
‘such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself keeps transforming himself into an angel of light.’
We are told:
‘Do not believe every inspired expression, but test the inspired expressions to see whether they originate with God, because many false prophets have gone forth into the world.’ –1 John 4:1
So it behooves us to ‘keep testing our faith’ (2 Corinthians 13:5), and ‘carefully examining the Scriptures’ (Acts 17:11) thoroughly to see if the teachings we believe are in full harmony with God’s word or are they based on the traditions of men. Lovers of truth will not fear such an examination.
Questions for Trinitarians to Examine
‘Look! Also, there was a voice from the heavens that said:
This is my Son, the beloved, whom I have approved.’
Q: Who approved of whom? How does this verse suggest the two mentioned here are the same God, or equal?
‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass away from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will. …Let your will take place.’
Q: If Jesus were Almighty God, or equal to Him, why would Jesus have any need to pray? Would it be possible to have two separate wills, since Jesus said, not his will, but God’s will should take place? How do you reconcile that if they are both the same, or part of the same God?
‘And I make a covenant with you, just as my Father has made a covenant with me, for a kingdom.’
Since a covenant is a solemn promise between two parties, one does not make a covenant with oneself. Q: Since there is no mention of the Holy Spirit here, how does the Holy Spirit tie into this covenant? On which part of the covenant would the Holy Spirit be, on the Father’s side, or on the side of Jesus?
‘Father, into your hands I entrust my spirit.’
This expression helps us to understand that Jesus really did die.
Q: If Jesus is part of the same God, or if Jesus IS God, then why didn’t the Father (and the Spirit) die too? How could just part of one God die and not the rest of that one God?
The Athenasian Creed states that all three are ‘equal in eternity;’ meaning that all three are ‘from everlasting to everlasting.’ So if Jesus died, but God (and the Spirit) didn’t die, how could they be ‘equal in eternity’ since there were parts of three days that Jesus did not exist, yet God (and His Spirit) did?
‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Exercise faith in God, exercise faith also in me.’
Q: Why would Jesus say to exercise faith in him directly after he had said to exercise faith in God, if Jesus IS God? Doesn’t that seem redundant?
If Jesus is God, then why does Jesus make a distinction here between ‘God’ and then ‘me'? And, why doesn’t Jesus say to exercise faith in the Holy Spirit?
‘We thank God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…’
Q: Does Paul include Jesus or the Holy Spirit in the word ‘God’ (as in the Trinity)? If so, why does Paul go on to mention Jesus Christ as God’s Son?
1 John 5:5:
‘Who is the one that conquers the world but he who has faith that Jesus is the Son of God?’
Q: Isn’t that clear? Are those that conquer this world those who have faith that Jesus is the Son of God, or ‘God the Son.’
For more information on this subject, please see the linked document, Who Was Jesus?