Origination of the trinity (short version) yes this really is the short version……Part 1 Introduction
The vast majority of Christianity today attests to the doctrine of the trinity. Asserting that Jesus is God. He is one “being” or “person” (many trinitarians use different terminology) of the triune God along with the Father and the Holy spirit. This being called, today, the Orthodox view. Orthodox is derived from 2 Greek words Orthos meaning straight or right (correct) and doxa meaning opinion or belief. So the “orthodox” view today being that Jesus is God, the father is God and the Holy spirit is God but there is only one God. God is triune. Today any other belief regarding the deity of Jesus and the trinity is considered by those who attest to the trinity and the deity of Jesus, as a heresy. Heresy simply meaning to go against the orthodox belief. Orthodox does not necessarily mean that what is believed is in fact the correct belief it simply indicates that that belief is what is considered and accepted to be the correct belief by the majority or the ones who have the authority.
However there are those that go against the orthodox belief and say that God is not triune. There are those that believe that God is singular, only the father is God. Many know this as unitarianism. There are also those who believe God is binatarian or that he is two. This usually being the father and the son. The purpose of this writing is not primarily to argue for or against the trinity doctrine per se although I myself am a unitarian who believes only the father is God and that Jesus is not. Rather it is to give a detailed, historical and theological overview of the origins of the trinity and the deity of Jesus.
Most people that argue against the trinity actually focus almost entirely, yet incorrectly, well mostly incorrectly anyway, it must be stated, on the council of Nicaea in 325 AD and declare that the trinity was formulated at this council. It is often claimed that it was Constantine that introduced the divinity of Jesus and the trinity at this council. That understanding is simply historically and factually incorrect, as we will see during the duration writing.
It actually wasn’t until the year 381 AD and the 1st council of Constantinople, some 56 years later and nearly 350 years after the death and resurrection of Jesus that the trinity was officially declared as “church” doctrine becoming the orthodox belief, and while it is true that since the council of Constantinople in 381 AD trinitarianism has been the official doctrine of the “church”, trinitarianism especially as it is understood, and I use the word ‘understood’ very lightly, today, unlike what many trinitarians like to make claim to, has not always been the orthodox view held by the majority of Christianity. The official trinity doctrine was actually the culmination of around 350 years of theorization, postulation and some rather heated debates regarding the nature of Jesus and who exactly he was and to a much lesser degree the holy spirit and “his” role in the godhead.
During those 350 years there were actually a great deal of conflicting theories and ideas put forward by a great number of men regarding Jesus and who he was and his relationship to the father.
The Catholic church states that the Trinity is the central mystery to the Christian faith.
Catechism of the Catholic Church
234 The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is the central mystery of Christian faith and life. It is the mystery of God in himself. It is therefore the source of all the other mysteries of faith, the light that enlightens them. It is the most fundamental and essential teaching in the “hierarchy of the truths of faith”.56 The whole history of salvation is identical with the history of the way and the means by which the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, reveals himself to men “and reconciles and unites with himself those who turn away from sin”.57
261 The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is the central mystery of the Christian faith and of Christian life. God alone can make it known to us by revealing himself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The Catholic Church also believes in the development of Doctrine.
Vatican II explained, “The tradition which comes from the apostles develops in the Church with the help of the Holy Spirit. For there is a growth in the understanding of the realities and the words which have been handed down. This happens through the contemplation and study made by believers, who treasure these things in their hearts, through a penetrating understanding of the spiritual realities which they experience, and through the preaching of those who have received through episcopal succession the sure gift of truth. For, as the centuries succeed one another, the Church constantly moves forward toward the fullness of divine truth until the words of God reach their complete fulfillment in her” (Dei Verbum 8).
The Catholic church admits that the terminology to explain and articulate the doctrine of the trinity did not exist at the time and had to be developed by the church itself.
251 In order to articulate the dogma of the Trinity, the Church had to develop her own terminology with the help of certain notions of philosophical origin: “substance”, “person” or “hypostasis”, “relation” and so on. In doing this, she did not submit the faith to human wisdom, but gave a new and unprecedented meaning to these terms, which from then on would be used to signify an ineffable mystery, “infinitely beyond all that we can humanly understand”.82
The Catholic church further admits that there is no single term in scripture that defines the trinity.
In Scripture there is as yet no single term by which the Three Divine Persons are denoted together. The word trias (of which the Latin trinitas is a translation) is first found in Theophilus of Antioch about A.D. 180. He speaks of “the Trinity of God [the Father], His Word and His Wisdom (“Ad. Autol.”, II, 15).
Interestingly many protestant churches accept, maintain and proclaim the doctrine of the trinity that the Catholic church itself says is a mystery and a revealed and developed doctrine through the authoritative church (Catholic), yet those same protestant churches reject the Catholic church as being authoritative and as such would not in fact have the authority to develop doctrine that it indeed claims to have developed. This rather leads to the rather complex question, if the protestant churches reject the authority of the Catholic church then why don’t the protestant churches also reject the doctrine of the trinity seeing the doctrine of the trinity is a Catholic revealed and developed doctrine?
Paul in his epistle to the Colossians however, clearly stated that the mystery of God had BEEN revealed.
Colossians 1-26 Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints:
Paul made no claims that the mystery of God would continue to be revealed until it had been fully revealed through the catholic church, which would in itself contradict Paul’s own claim of the already revealed mystery.
For the very early church, in the immediate years after the resurrection, Jesus was understood to be the Messiah OF God and not actually God. There was no discussion regarding his deity. It simply was not an issue. This is clearly shown in the oldest of the gospels, the gospel of Mark which is from around 60-70 AD. One only needs to read this gospel to understand that Jesus was understood to be the Messiah with no implications or assertions of his deity. There is nothing inside the gospel to assert the trinity or even imply it. The disciples as per the epistles went around proclaiming Jesus as the risen Messiah. They did not proclaim him to be God. There are NO arguments in the epistles of Paul, John or Peter regarding the deity of Jesus. We see no arguments from the Jews against their teachings that Jesus was God, which would be expected as the Jews would not simply have accepted Jesus was God. This very clearly shows that they did not in fact teach that Jesus was God. The vast vast majority of gospel verses used to support the claim Jesus is God and the trinity are found in the gospel of John which is a later gospel. It is this gospel that leads many scholars to believe that the belief that Jesus was God was a later formulation. Written to support the belief that Jesus was indeed God. However when understood correctly even these verses do not in fact support the trinity, even if most people do not correctly understand them.
All these verses have been answered in my individual writings on those specific verses, plus more.
The Jewish people were and are monotheistic. They believed in and still believe in, one God who is singular. God is the father. There is no concept of a trinitarian God. There is no concept of 3 in one. The trinity is blasphemy to the Jews.
The Jewish Messiah was never understood by the Jews themselves, that he would be literally God incarnate. This belief, that the Messiah, would be human and not God in anyway, is still held today by the Jews who have rejected Jesus as the Messiah and are still waiting for their Messiah to come. It was to the Jews that the word of God had been given. It was to those same Jews that God had given the promise of the Messiah. To the Jews the idea that the Messiah would be in anyway God is not only absurd but a blasphemy. It is an argument that the Jews use against the belief that Jesus is the Messiah and against Christianity as a whole even today. Obviously we know that most of the Jews did not and still do not recognise their own Messiah when he came, or at least they rejected Jesus after he failed to meet their specific understanding of that Messiah. Therefore it could be argued that the Jews did not understand correctly their own Messiah, neither did they understand that the Messiah was in fact going to be literally God incarnate, the Jews just did not understand who or what the Messiah was going to be. It must also be stated that there are Jews today, known as Messianic Jews that have accepted Jesus, not only as their Messiah but also as God incarnate. Although it must be noted that one does not necessitate the other and neither does this acceptance mean that it is in anyway correct simply because they have accepted it.
The word Messiah which is the Hebrew word מָשִׁיחַ mashiach simply means the anointed. There were many Messiahs or anointed ones in the Bible. The priests and kings of Israel were anointed being Messiah.
However after the last kings of Israel (Hoshea) 722 BC and Judah (Zedekiah) 586 BC the Jews came to the understanding and belief that there would be a future Messiah. A future king who would come and restore back the kingdom to a unified Israel. Unifying the Northern and Southern tribes as one and eradicating Israel of all its enemies and who would bring peace.
The Jews believe that this Messiah is to be a MAN and only a man, not an incarnate God. He will be a great leader but a man nonetheless.
The Messianic Redemption will be ushered in by a person, a human leader, a descendant of Kings David and Solomon, who will reinstate the Davidic royal dynasty. According to tradition, Moshiach will be wiser than Solomon, and a prophet around the level of Moses.
The requirements for the Messiah
The following are the criteria for identifying the Moshiach, as written by Maimonides:
If we see a Jewish leader who (a) toils in the study of Torah and is meticulous about the observance of the mitzvot, (b) influences the Jews to follow the ways of the Torah and (c) wages the “battles of G‑d”—such a person is the “presumptive Moshiach.”
If the person succeeded in all these endeavors, and then rebuilds the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and facilitates the ingathering of the Jews to the Land of Israel—then we are certain that he is the Moshiach.
It is important to note that the 2nd temple still stood at the time of Jesus however he predicted its destruction.
Jesus taught throughout the gospels that he was the Messiah that the Jews were waiting for. The one promised by God.
Jesus stated to the Jewish Pharisees, that if they didn’t believe that “I am he” they would die in their sins
John 8-24 I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.
When he was asked who he was he said he had told them at the beginning who he was.
John 8-25 Then said they unto him, Who art thou? And Jesus saith unto them, Even the same that I said unto you from the beginning.
So it is important to ask, who at the beginning had Jesus said that he was?
At the beginning of his ministry Jesus had walked into the synagogue and read from the scriptures. He read from a prophecy regarding the Messiah.
Luke 4- 18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, 19 To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. 20 And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him
Jesus then claimed that the prophecy that was proclaimed in Isaiah was now fulfilled, proclaiming to be the anointed one (the Messiah) the one that fulfilled the prophecy that he had just read.
Luke 4- 21 And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.
So we see that from the beginning Jesus had claimed to be the Messiah. The one who fulfilled the scriptures. It is the Messiah then who Jesus had claimed that they must believe that he is.
During a conversation, when Jesus spoke to a Samaritan woman at Jacobs well after he had asked her for a drink, she stated that she knew the Messiah was to come,
John 4- 25 The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things
Jesus replied that he was he. Jesus claimed to be that him, the Messiah that she knew was to come.
John 4-.26 Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he.
Jesus told the woman that he was the Messiah.
Jesus believed himself to be the king
Luke 22-30 That ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
John 18-36 Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.
Others understood that he was to be king also.
The thief on the cross asked Jesus to remember him when he came into his kingdom.
Luke 23-42 And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.
The mother of the sons of Zebedee asked that her sons sit on the left and right of Jesus in his kingdom.
Matthew 20-21 And he said unto her, What wilt thou? She saith unto him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom.
When the high priest asked Jesus if he was the Christ at his trial, Jesus said he was (I am )
Mark 14- 61 But he held his peace, and answered nothing. Again the high priest asked him, and said unto him, Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed? 62 And Jesus said, I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.
Jesus clearly believed that he was the promised Messiah.
The disciples of Jesus believed Jesus was that promised Messiah.
After Jesus had asked the disciples the question who did they say he was?
Matthew 16-15 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?
Simon Peter called him the Christ
Matthew 16-16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
Mark 8-29 And he saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Peter answereth and saith unto him, Thou art the Christ.
Luke 9-20 He said unto them, But whom say ye that I am? Peter answering said, The Christ of God.
To which Jesus replied that it was his father that had revealed this to him.
Matthew 16-17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.
If the father revealed something then this must have been a truth.
Simon Peter was not the only one to apply the title of Christ, the son of God or the king of Israel unto Jesus.
We see Jesus being called the Christ (Messiah) throughout the New Testament.
Philip was the first to declare Jesus the Messiah when he told Nathanael that they had found the one that Moses and the prophets wrote about.
John 1- 45 Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.
Matthew 1-1 The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.
Mark 1-1 The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God;
John 1-49 Nathanael answered and saith unto him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel.
John 6- 68 Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. 69 And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.
The angel speaking to the shepherds when Jesus was born pronounced him as the Christ
Luke 2- 11For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord
When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead he asked Martha a question.
John 11- 26And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?
Her reply to his question was to call him the Christ the son of God, the one that should come into the world (The awaited Messiah)
John 11- 27She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.
After Jesus had fed the 5000, the men who had seen the miracle stated that he was the Messiah, the prophet who should come into the world.
John 6-14 Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world.
We are told that the Ethiopian Eunuch had wanted to be water Baptised by Philip. Philip told him he could if he believed with all his heart. Believed what exactly? Well we can see what he had to believe through his then recorded declaration. The Eunuch declared that he believed Jesus Christ was the son of God.
Acts 8- 36 And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? 37And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
Even a roman soldier called Jesus the son of God after his death upon the cross.
Matthew 27-54 Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God.
During the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness by Satan, Satan questions Jesus as being the son of God and attempted to deceive him.
Matthew 4- 3And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.
Matthew 4- 6And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.
Satan was an angel and most certainly would have known who God was. We must ask why did he say IF Jesus was the son of God? If anyone was going to know the pre existent son it would be Satan. It makes even less sense if Jesus the son was in fact not just the son, the Messiah but God.
Now probably the most important of mentions of Jesus being the son of God and not God or even pre existing comes from God himself.
Matthew 3-17 And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
At the transfiguration of Jesus God told the disciples that accompanied Jesus, that Jesus was his son and to hear him.
Mark 9-7 And there was a cloud that overshadowed them: and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him.
And probably Gods most powerful statement where he said he has CHOSEN his servant
Matthew 12-18 Behold my servant, whom I have chosen; my beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased: I will put my spirit upon him, and he shall shew judgment to the Gentiles.
Did God the father really choose God the son to be his servant?
Jesus calls himself the son of God.
John 9- 35 Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God?
John 10-36 Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?
Jesus claimed to be the Son of God/ The Christ/ The Messiah.
Not once does Jesus actually declare that he is God. Neither does God state that Jesus is God. In fact nobody in the Bible states Jesus is God.
For some Christians this belief remained, Jesus was the Messiah and not God. This belief still remains today albeit in much smaller numbers than those that believe that Jesus is God.
However for others the view that Jesus was the human Messiah and only human began to change.
During the following years there were many new converts who were converting to Christianity who were not Jews. They were not coming from Judaism, they were in fact pagans. They were coming from, and more importantly, with, paganistic beliefs. Those beliefs were not monotheistic but polytheistic in concept, meaning unlike the Jews who had only one God and therefore unitarian, the pagan converts had a plethora of gods. With the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans in particular having a whole schmorgesborg of gods. They also had no real idea about the Jewish Messiah, seeing that the Jewish Messiah was not taught and proclaimed by the pagans.
As Christianity began to grow, more and more pagans were converting, bringing with them their pagan understandings of their gods.
As I just stated many of these pagans had no real understanding of the promised Jewish messiah, his relevance to Israel and the God of Israel, the one true God the God that Jesus himself called the ONLY true God, the father, YHWH. It wasn’t long before they were inputting and infusing the pagan beliefs into Christianity.
For many of the pagans, the belief of a man being made a god, a man being born of a human/god union ( a demigod) or even a god incarnate was not only not unusual but actually formed part of their religious beliefs and understandings about their gods.
We only need to look at Greek and Roman mythology for this.
It was believed in many pagan theologies that certain people could be made a god by the god/s, if the person was looked upon favorably by the gods.
We see this for example in ancient Roman mythology. Romulus was made a god.
(The basic story)
Romulus according to mythology was the founder of the city of Rome.
Romulus and his twin brother Remus were raised by a shewolf. Romulus killed Remus and then founded Rome.
It was believed (according to ancient roman historian Livy) that Romulus, because of his greatness had been taken up to heaven during a thunderstorm to become a god.
The ancient Roman emperors could be deified.
In 42 BC Julius Caesar became the first Roman man to be deified when he was officially deified by the Roman senate and became the divine Julius. It was from this time onwards, then believed that emperors became divine or not based on how good they were as emperors. The roman senate would vote on the emperors behalf to see if the emperor would be deified or not.
There were in fact some Jews that believed that humans could become gods. Some Jews believed that both Moses and Enoch had been deified by God. (This was according to Philo)
This is how some viewed Jesus and his divinity. That through his obedience to God, God had deified him and made him a god. Jesus was raised from the dead and ascended to heaven to be a god.
It was understood by many that God had “adopted” Jesus as his son at his resurrection.
In ancient cultures, especially Roman culture, adoption was actually much revered. The adopted son having even more authority than natural born sons.
It is believed that Julius Caesar had a natural son with Cleopatra. His name being Caesarion. A name that few people will have heard of.
However Julius Caesar also had an adopted son, with a much more familiar name, Octavian. The reason the name Octavian and not Caesarion being the more familiar of the 2 names is that after the death of Julius Caesar it was Octavian, the adopted son, and not Caesarion, who became his successor and Roman emperor. Octavian is even better known by his ruling name Caesar Augustus.
So if the adopted son of Julius Caesar was more important than the natural son of Julius Caesar how important would a man be that was adopted by God. This was the understanding that some Christians had.
For others this exaltation went further back with Jesus being exalted at his baptism while others understood this to have been at his birth.
The basic story of Hercules.
Amphitryon had a beautiful wife called Alcmene. Alcmene was made pregnant by Amphitrion and then he left to go to war. The God Jupiter having seen Alcmene’s beauty decided that he wanted her and so took on the form of her husband Amphitryon. Alcmene thinking that her husband had returned went to bed with him. Jupiter ordered that the constellations cease from moving and so in essence stops time in order to prolong the night. Alcmene was then pregnant a second time from this union. She gave birth to twins. Iphicles from her husband Amphitryon and Hercules from Jupiter.
Hercules being a demi god born of a god/human union.
It is this belief, that non human beings can mate with humans that led to the very incorrect understanding of the story of the Nephilim in the Bible. An angel human offspring. The Bible does not actually teach this. (see my writings who were the Nephilim and who were the sons of God.
There were Christians who believed that God was the literal father of Jesus in the sense that he himself had literally impregnated Mary in the same way that Jupiter impregnated Alcmene. Jesus therefore was a demigod having a father who was God and a mother who was human.
It was also believed that it was possible for a god to become a human being. This may be for any duration of time and for any purpose that the god so wished.
Just as Jupiter became a human for his night with Alcmene for example.
Some people believe that God incarnated in the OT as an angel, the angel of the Lord, and also as a man who met with Abraham. God himself literally becoming the angel and the man. Again you may wish to read my writings on both of these.
The Jews understand this to mean those that represent God act as God when representing him not that God literally became and angel or a man. This was the law of agency (see my writing on the subject)
However there were Christians who believed that God literally became a human being. He ceased being the father at this time and acted as the son. This was known as Modalism, along with a few other names such as oneness and Sebellianism. When Jesus “died” he simply went back to heaven and became the father again.
As Jesus, over time, in the early beliefs of Christians “took on” divinity it is no surprise that it was these ideas that became the most popular beliefs regarding just how Jesus was divine, for those that believed that he did, in early Christianity.
Many Catholics point to the now thousands of denominations and state that this division came after the reformation. For nearly 1500 years the church had been unified under one belief one faith. The belief that God was triune and that Jesus was God. This is simply incorrect, in fact it isn’t just incorrect it is a flat out lie. Early Christianity was as divided, as it has ever been. There were just as many different beliefs regarding who Jesus was as there are today, in fact the vast majority of the beliefs today were believed in the first 3 centuries and have never gone away. They may have been suppressed and anathematized and even persecuted against by the Catholic Church, but they remained. However under the religion of Christianity these same believers were faced with a major dilemma. Christianity just as in Judaism was strictly monotheistic. There was only one God. This was fundamental to the religion.
Many of these converting pagans were coming from a more philosophical background and they started to postulate and debate just as to what Jesus being God actually meant.
How could Jesus, the son, be God while the father was God without this being 2 Gods. There was only one God after all….continued in part 2