The Historical Development Of The Trinity: An Analysis

Introduction

T. S. Elliot was quoted to have once said that “Christianity is always adapting itself into something which can be believed.”1 And true to this statement, Christianity has digressed from the concept of the Oneness of God as stressed in the “Shema”, or the Jewish creed of faith in Hebrew: Shema Yisra’el, YHWH Eloheinu, YHWH echad (“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord.”2 into a vague and mysterious doctrine that was formulated during the fourth century. This doctrine, which continues to be a source of controversy both within and out of the Christian religion, is known as the Doctrine of the Trinity.

The Trinity has become the central doctrine of most of the Christian sects of today. It is basically the modern Christian doctrine of God for most churches. Simply put, the Christian doctrine of the Trinity states that God is the union of three divine persons – the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit – in one divine being. According to Christians, all three of these persons are God. Yet, they say believe in only one God and not three. According to Christians, the Father, the Son, and the Ghost have some similar functions and some different functions. For example, the Christian believes all three participated in the creation of the world, and yet they also have some functions peculiar to themselves and they “enjoy” each other’s company. For example, The Father sends, and is not sent. The Father is the executor of justice, and the Son is the deliver of humanity against this justice. According to Christians, these three are “co-equal” and in complete agreement. One of them is no greater than the other.

If that concept, put in basic terms, sounds confusing, the flowery language in the actual text of the doctrine lends even more mystery to the matter:

…we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity… for there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, another of the Holy Ghost is all one… they are not three gods, but one God… the whole three persons are co-eternal and co-equal… he therefore that will be saved must thus think of the Trinity…3

This is the prize and tragic example of the natural mind of man speculating upon divine things rather than being content to humbly accept the simple testimony of the Bible. Millions of Christians believe in the “Holy Trinity” on faith alone. Through this formula they have made Jesus the “Son of God”, and even God himself. Let’s put this together in a different form: one person, God the Father + one person, God the Son + one person, God the Holy Ghost = one person, God the What?

Is this English or is this gibberish? It is said that Athanasius, the bishop who formulated this doctrine, confessed that the more he wrote on the matter, the less capable he was of clearly expressing his thoughts regarding it. Who invented the Trinity? How did such a confusing doctrine get its start?

Is The Trinity in the Bible?

References in the Bible to a Trinity of divine beings are vague, at best. In Matthew 28:19, we find Jesus(P) telling his disciples to go out and preach to all nations. While the “Great Commission” does make mention of the three persons who later become components of the Trinity, the phrase “…baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” is quite clearly an addition to Biblical text – that is, not the actual words of Jesus(P) — as can be seen by two factors:

  • Baptism in the early Church, as discussed by Paul in his letters, was done only in the name of Jesus; and
  • The “Great Commission” was found in the first gospel written, that of Mark, bears no mention of Father, Son and/or Holy Ghost – see Mark 16:15. The only other reference in the Bible to a Trinity can be found in the Epistle of I John 5:7. Biblical scholars of today, however, have admitted that the phrase “…there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one” is definitely a “later addition” to Biblical test, and it is not found in any of today’s versions of the Bible.

We note that not only does the Bible fail to mention the Trinity, it also fails to explain or defend such a doctrine. Indeed, it often contradicts the doctrine, sometimes with the very words of Jesus. For example, in John 14:28, Jesus(P) is reported to have said: “The Father is greater than I am.”

Here we see Jesus(P) being quoted as saying that he is not the Supreme Being. This verse is an explicit contradiction of the findings of the Nicene Creed and modern Christian theology. From reading this verse, we have to conclude that God is Supreme; there is no one greater than God. Jesus, however, is not Supreme; there is Someone superior to him.

It is amazing for example that Paul can write hundreds of verses to explain the importance (or lack thereof) of dietary laws or circumcision, and yet not utter a word in defense of the Trinity. Indeed, modern scholarship has conceded that the original Christians such as the Ebionites, Essenes, and Adoptionists knew no Trinity and did not worship the Christ Jesus(P). Indeed, these Christian groups existed before any of the current New Testament documents did, and they also existed before the Roman Catholic Church did. They used texts such as the Gospel of the Hebrews, the Gospel of the Nazarenes and the Gospel of the Ebionites. It can, therefore, be seen that the concept of a Trinity of divine beings was not an idea put forth by Jesus(P) or any other prophet of God. This doctrine, now subscribed to by Christians all over the world, is entirely man-made in origin.

The Doctrine Takes Shape

The Encyclopedia Britannica gives a critical piece of information regarding the origins of the Trinity:

Neither the word Trinity, nor the explicit doctrine as such, appears in the New Testament, nor did Jesus and his followers intend to contradict the Shema in the Old Testament: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord’ (Deut. 6:4). The doctrine developed gradually over several centuries and through many controversies…4

While Paul of Tarsus, the man who could rightfully be considered the true founder of Christianity did formulate many of its doctrines, that of the Trinity was not among them. He did, however, lay the groundwork for such when he put forth the idea of Jesus being a “divine Son.” After all, a Son does need a Father, and what about a vehicle for God’s revelations to man? In essence, Paul named the principal players, but it was the later Church people who put the matter together.

The evolution of the Trinity doctrine can be seen by the fact that the “early Trinitarians” tell us that the early Christians were horrified by Trinitarian ideas; indeed, even the “Christian Fathers” themselves show striking ignorance of the Trinity.

Tertullian, a lawyer and presbyter of the third century Church in Carthage, was the first to use the word “Trinity” when he put forth the theory that the Son and the Spirit participate in the being of God, but all are of one being of substance with the Father. He lamented in the late 2nd century in Adversus Praxeas (i.e. Against Praxeas):

The majority of believers (i.e. Christians), who everywhere constitute a majority, shudder in horror at the dispensation of the three (i.e., trinity). They fail to understand that while he is one God; he must yet be understood within his own economy!

But the truly amazing thing is that Tertullian himself had an “improper” or incomplete understanding of the Trinity; for he also wrote, “There was a time when the Son was not.” Or in other words there was a time when Jesus did not exist! Again, all this points to the fact of the gradual development of the doctrine; the Trinity was never a part of the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

The Eastern theologian John of Damascus (about A.D. 675-749), in defending iconolatry, admitted the fact that neither the Trinity nor the homoousion (identifying Jesus as God) nor the two natures of Christ can be found in the scriptures. John of Damascus then continued, “but we know those doctrines are true.” After he acknowledged that icons, the Trinity and the incarnation are innovations, John of Damascus went on to urge his readers to hold fast to them “as venerable traditions delivered to us by the fathers.” Thus, at least 14 centuries ago, he recognized that the incarnation doctrine is not a divinely revealed doctrine, delivered to us by Jesus, but a human idea passed down to us “by the fathers.” Theodore the Studite (about A.D. 795-826) adopted this argument too.

Eusebius, a fourth century scholar, in his legendary book on the history of Christianity, notes that early 1st century Christians living in and around Jerusalem did not worship Christ.

Even as late as the 4th century, we find that most Christians, particularly those who lived in the East, worshipped the Father alone. This fact is acknowledged by the Trinitarian father, St. Jerome, who lamented that in the mid-4th century, “the whole world groaned and marvelled to find itself Arian” (Arius was the Christian who at the Council of Nicaea represented Unitarian Christians against the false teachings of Athanasius, father of the Trinity as the Catholics call him).

Now let’s look at what some of the Christian fathers had to say about the “Holy Spirit”:

  • Hermas (Similitude V. 5,6) understands by the “Holy Spirit”, the holy element in Christ, namely the Son, was created before all things. The Spirit in Hermas’ belief is clearly not a person (and Jesus is not God either.)
  • In Deprecatio Pro Christianis, ix, x, Athenagoras who lived from about 110 C.E. to about 180 C.E., wrote that the “Holy Spirit” is an emanation of God proceeding from and returning to Him like the rays of the Sun.
  • Origen, the author of Hexepla, and arguably the greatest of the pre-Nicene fathers did state that the Holy Spirit had a personality, but he says that the Holy Spirit is a creature of the Son. In other words, the Son created the Holy Spirit after he himself was created by the Father.

In studying these statements, we can notice not only the divergence between them, but the fact that they did not have any belief in the “Holy Ghost” of modern Trinitarians.

A Formal Doctrine is Drawn Up

When controversy over the matter of the Trinity blew up in 318 C.E. between two church men from Alexandria – Arius, the deacon, and Alexander, his bishop, regarding the basis of the metaphysics of substance that led to concepts that have no foundations in the New Testament – such as the question of the sameness of essence (homoousia) or the similarity of essence (homoiousia) of the divine persons of the Trinity, the Emperor Constantine stepped into the fray. Although Christian dogma was a complete mystery to him, he did realize that a unified church was necessary for a strong kingdom. When negotiation failed to settle the dispute, Constantine called for the first ecumenical council in Church history in order to settle the matter once and for all.

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As far as Constantine was concerned, things were going from bad to worse. He was obliged to intervene and addressed a letter to both Alexander and Arius. He said that his consuming passion was for the unity of religious opinion, since it was the best guarantee of peace in the realm. He then continues:

But Ah! Glorious and Divine Providence, what a wound was inflicted not alone on my ears but on my heart, when I heard that divisions existed among yourselves even more grievous than those in Africa; so that you, whose agency I hoped to bring healing to others, need a remedy worse than they. And yet, after making a careful enquiry into the origins of these discussions, I find that the cause is quite insignificant and entirely disproportionate to such a quarrel…I gather that the present controversy originated as follows: for when you, Alexander, asked each of the presbyters what he thought about a certain passage in the Scriptures or, rather, what he thought about a certain aspect of a foolish question; and you, Arius, without due consideration, laid down propositions which never ought to have been conceived at all, or if conceived ought to have been buried in silence, dissentions arose between you – communion was forbidden, and the most people, torn in twain, no longer preserved the unity of a common body.

The Emperor then exhorts them to let both the unguarded question and the inconsiderate answer be forgotten and forgiven:

The subject never ought to have been broached, but there is always mischief found for idle hands to do and idle brains to think. The difference between you has not arisen on any cardinal doctrine laid down in the Scriptures, nor has any new doctrine been introduced. You both hold one and the same view. Reunion, therefore, was easily possible.

The Emperor went on to quote the example of pagan philosophers who agree to disagree on details while holding the same general principles. How then, he asked, can it be right for brethren to behave towards one another like enemies because of mere trifling and verbal differences. Such conduct in his opinion was:

vulgar, childish, and petulent, ill-fiting priests of God and men of sense…It is the wile and temptation of the Devil. Let us have done with it. If we cannot think alike on all topics, we can at least all be united on great essentials. As regars the Divine Providence, let there be one faith and one understanding, one united opinion in reference to God.

The letter then concludes:

Restore me then my quiet days and untroubled nights that I may retain my joy, the gladness of peaceful life. Else I must groan and be defused wholly in tears and no comfort of mind till I die. For while the people of God, my fellow sevants, are thus torn asunder in unlawful and pernicious controversy, how can I be tranquil of mind?5

We can see that this letter demonstrates the ignorance of the Emperor, not only of Christianity but also of any religion in general, since he assumes that whether a man worships God as he pleases, or in the manner that God indicates, it is the same to him. To say that the controversy between Alexander and Arius was merely a verbal quarrel or an insignificant and non-essential point is absurd. To regard the difference between the two as “trivial” clearly shows that Constantine did not understand what he was talking about. This letter only shows that Constantine was not concerned with the nature of Reality, but with his own peace of mind.

His above letter failed to achieve its objective, and the argument between Arius and Alexander worsened. Finally, Constantine called for a meeting of all Christian bishops in order to settle the matter once and for all. His position as a pagan, he said, was a great advantage since by virtue of his not belonging to any sect, he would make an impartial judge. Six weeks after the 300 bishops first gathered at Nicea in 325 C.E., the doctrine of the Trinity was hammered out. The God of the Christians was now seen as having three essences, or natures, in the form of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The irony is that Christ’s deity was ratified over the objections of most of the Christian bishops who had been gathered there from all over the world. Out of the more than 1000 Christian scholars present, less than 400 accepted the Nicene Creed, and even these were divided among themselves into three groups.

The Trinity At the Council of Nicea

Of the Council of Nicea, 352 A.D., where the doctrine of the Trinity was first officially formulated, the well-known Trinitarian historian Mosheim, a Lutheran, admits (Century 4, Part 2, Chapter 3, Section 1) that:

….the discussions concerning the three persons in the Godhead, among those who approved the decisions of the council of Nice.

There is so little clearness and discrimination in these discussions, that they seem to rend the one God into three Gods.

Moreover, those idle fictions, which a regard for the prevailing opinions of the day had induced most theologians to embrace, even before the time of Constantine, were now in various ways confirmed, extended and embellished.

Hence it is that we see on every side evident traces of excessive veneration for saints in heaven, of belief in a fire to purify souls on leaving the body, of partiality for priestly celibacy, the worship of images and relics, and for many other opinions which, in process of time, almost banished the true religion, or at least very much obscured and corrupted it.

Genuine piety was gradually supplanted by a long train of superstitious observances, which were derived partly from a preposterous disposition to adopt profane rites.

To the temples, to water consecrated with certain forms, and to likenesses of holy men, the same efficacy was ascribed and the same privileges assigned, as had been attributed to the pagan temples, statues and lustrations before the advent of Christ.

This is a Trinitarian’s description of conditions in the Catholic Church during the time the doctrine of the Trinity was being formulated and imposed.

In the same chapter, Section 5, Mosheim says

The doctors who were distinguished for their learning explained the sacred doctrines after the manner of Origen (see notes below on Origen) on whom they fixed their eye – in accordance with the principles of that philosophy which they learned in their youth at school, namely, the Platonic philosophy as corrected by Origen.

Those who wish to get a full insight into this subject may examine Gregory Nazianzen among the Greeks and Augustine among the Latins who were regarded in the subsequent ages as the only patterns worthy of imitation, and may be fitly styled, next to Origen, the parents and supporters of philosophic or scholastic theology. They were both admirers of Plato.

Thus it is unanimously accepted that the doctrine of Trinity is the product of the Nicene Conference (325 AD). Huw Parri Owen, a former professor of Christian Doctrine at King’s College, University of London acknowledges the fact that

. . . the early Church formulated the doctrine of The Incarnation. Here the two main landmarks are the council of Nicaea in 325 and the council of Chalcedon in 451. Throughout the centuries christology has been determined, directly or indirectly, by the formulae that these two councils produced….After Nicaea, then, there was no doubt in orthodox circles that Christ was divine.[5]

The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible in the article “Deity of Christ” suggests the same fact:

The clearest and fullest expression of the deity of Christ is found in the Nicene Creed which was originally presented at the Council of Nicea, AD 325. In the English Book of Common Prayer the translation appears as follows: ‘. . . one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, Begotten, not made.'[6]

The Encyclopaedia Britannica, under the heading “Trinity” states that:

…in Christian doctrine, the unity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as three persons in one Godhead. Neither the word Trinity nor the explicit doctrine appears in the New Testament, nor did Jesus and his followers intend to contradict the Shema in the Old Testament. The doctrine developed gradually over several centuries and through many controversies…The Council of Nicaea in 325 AD stated the crucial formula for that doctrine in its confession that the Son is ‘of the same substance [homoousios] as the Father,’ even though it said very little about the Holy Spirit. Over the next half century, Athanasius defended and refined the Nicene formula, and, by the end of the 4th century, under the leadership of Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nyssa, and Gregory of Nazianzus (the Cappadocian Fathers), the doctrine of the Trinity took substantially the form it has maintained ever since.[7]

Collier’s Encyclopedia CD-ROM says that:

In the second and third centuries, Christians devoted much thought to these questions and differed widely in their answers. In the Greek word Logos, which had wide currency in contemporary philosophy and which is loosely translated as “word,” they found a term which seemed to be usable, and they sought to give it a content which would be consistent with what they believed about Christ. But how was the Logos related to the Father? One school of thought became known as Arianism from a leading exponent, Arius (256-336), a priest in the church of Alexandria. Arianism held that the Father had created the Son, that there had been a time when the Son had not existed, and that he was subordinate to the Father. So acute did the controversy become that Constantine feared that the division within the Church might jeopardize the uneasy unity of the Empire which he had achieved. To resolve the issue, he called a council of the Church in 325 at Nicaea, not far from Constantinople. It became the first of what the Christian Church has regarded as “ecumenical councils,” that is, representative of the entire church. After a stormy debate it condemned Arianism. The creed which is today called Nicene embodies the findings of the council. On the major issue it declares: “I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, begotten of His Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father.” The creed was later elaborated, but without doing violence to the original meaning. The Greek in which it was first phrased employed terms to which a distinctive meaning was given. One term, homoousion, translated as “the same substance,” was central. It meant that Christ was truly God “very God of very God” according to the English translation and was not subordinate to the Father. Arianism, however, continued to be influential for several centuries; it was endorsed by some later emperors and was the form of Christianity to which several of the Germanic peoples were converted.[8]

The Compton’s Interactive Encyclopedia recognize that:

The first of the great church councils was convened in ancient Nicaea (modern Isnik, Turkey) by the Roman emperor Constantine I, who sought to deal with a heresy, called Arianism. This doctrine, originated by Arius of Alexandria, was dividing Christianity and threatened to divide the empire. It stated that Jesus Christ was not divine, but a created being– The council condemned Arius and his teachings and declared the complete equality of God the Father and the Son. Its decree that Father and Son were composed “of one substance” became part of the Nicene Creed, a statement of faith that united and continues to unite all major divisions within Christianity. The council addressed other issues as well, including the method for consecrating bishops.[9]

The New Catholic Encyclopedia also acknowledges that the Trinity doctrine does not exist in the Old Testament, and that it was formulated three centuries after Jesus(P).

There is the recognition on the part of exegetes and Biblical theologians, including a constantly growing number of Roman Catholics, that one should not speak of Trinitarianism in the New Testament without serious qualification. There is also the closely parallel recognition on the part of historians of dogma and systematic theologians that when one does speak of an unqualified Trinitarianism, one has moved from the period of Christian origins to, say, the last quadrant of the 4th century. It was only then that what might be called the definitive Trinitarian dogma ‘One God in three Persons’ became thoroughly assimilated into Christian life and thought … it was the product of 3 centuries of doctrinal development.[10]

Reading all the above, one has to ask oneself why it was that Jesus(P) himself, in his teachings, did not express the doctrine of Trinity “as fully and clearly” as the Nicene Council did 300 years after his departure.

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The Church Puts its Foot Down

The matter was far from settled, however, despite high hopes for such on the part of Constantine. Arius and the new bishop of Alexandria, a man named Athanasius, began arguing over the matter even as the Nicene Creed was being signed; “Arianism” became a catch-word from that time onward for anyone who did not hold to the doctrine of the Trinity.

It wasn’t until 451 C.E., at the Council of Chalcedon, that, with the approval of the Pope, the Nicene/Constantinople Creed was set as authoritative. Debate on the matter was no longer tolerated; to speak out against the Trinity was now considered blasphemy, and such earned stiff sentences that ranged from mutilation to death. Christians now turned on Christians, maiming and slaughtering thousands because of a difference of opinion. In 628 C.E., a law was put forward by Emperor Theodosius II to stamp out the Arians.

The Church also went on to develop the doctrine of “blind faith”. This is because those who developed the “Trinity” doctrine were unable to define it in any manner that could not be refuted by the unwavering Unitarians Christians through the Bible. In the beginning they tried to defend the “Trinity” through logic and the Bible. This continued for a long time until the Trinitarian church finally gave up on ever substantiating their claims through the Bible. So they demanded blind faith in their doctrines. Anyone who did not believe blindly and dared to question them would be branded a heretic and tortured or killed.

The Debate Continues

Brutal punishments and even death did not stop the controversy over the doctrine of the Trinity, however, and the said controversy continues even today. The Unitarian Christians were then violently prosecuted; their books burnt; and by 600 C.E., they had basically ceased to exist (although Unitarians would re-emerge in the 1500’s with the revolt against the Catholic Church now known as the Reformation). The majority of Christians, when asked to explain this fundamental doctrine of their faith, can offer nothing more than “I believe it because I was told to do so.” For other Christians, it is explained away as “mystery” – yet the Bible says in I Corinthians 14:33 that

… God is not the author of confusion.

To avoid this dilemma, many Christians resort to George Orwell’s “doublethink”. He defined it thus:

Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs simultaneously and accepting both of them. The party intellectual knows that he is playing tricks with reality, but by the exercise of doublethink he also satisfies himself that reality is not violated.[11]

William Lutz, a professor in the English Department at Rutgers University has a clearer definition of how this attitude is practiced.

A third kind of doublespeak is gobbledygook or bureaucratese. Basically, such doublespeak is simply a matter of piling on words, of overwhelming the audience with words, the bigger the words and the longer the sentences the better. . . . The fourth kind of doublespeak is inflated language that is designed to make the ordinary seem extraordinary; to make everyday things seem impressive; . . . to make the simple seem complex.[12]

Christian clergymen have enthusiastically praised the Trinity for centuries. They have employed impressive language of “doublethink” and use “doublespeak” to defend this fictitious concept. Let us read E. J. Fortman’s glorification:

If we truly believe that ‘the ground of reality is not the nuclear composition of matter but the Trinity,’ not the division of the infinitely small but distinction at the heart of the infinitely great, we cannot but dedicate all the resources of our logic, all the energies of our mind, all the fire of our heart to the loving study of the Father, his Word and their Spirit.[13]

Fortman tries to hide the plain contradiction between the Trinity and Unity by using gobbledygook and inflated language, starting with a big “if”. This is one of the common defense strategies of priests when they encounter a difficult problem regarding their teachings. They are unable to explain the Trinity without the use of “doublethink”.

As another author comments:

Doublethink lies at the root of a Christian’s basic assumption that Christ is God. It is around this assumption that the controversy of the two natures of Jesus has raged. One moment he is human. The next moment he is divine. First he is Jesus, then he is Christ. It is only by the exercise of doublethink that a person could hold these two contradictory beliefs simultaneously. It is only by the exercise of doublethink that belief in the doctrine of Trinity can be maintained.[14]

The Unitarian denomination of Christianity has kept alive the teachings of Arius in saying that God is one; they do not believe in the Trinity. As a result, mainstream Christians abhor them, and the National Council of Churches has refused their admittance. In Unitarianism, the hope is kept alive that Christians will someday return to the preaching of Jesus(P): “…Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve.”[15]

The fundamental doctrine of Trinity makes no sense unless the doctrines of incarnation and atonement are also accepted. Jesus of Nazareth was hence God-incarnate walking on earth, distinct from God the Father dwelling in heaven and hearing our prayers. It thus became necessary to think of God as at least two in one, who were at least for a while existing in heaven and on earth, as distinct entities.

How Islam Views The Trinity

The fundamental doctrine of Trinity makes no sense unless the doctrines of incarnation and atonement are also accepted. St Anselm, in his Cur Deus Homo, showed that the concept of atonement demanded that Christ had to be God, since only an infinite sacrifice could atone for the limitless evil of humanity, which was, in Augustine’s words, a massa damnata – a damned mass because of Adam’s original sin. Jesus of Nazareth was hence God-incarnate walking on earth, distinct from God the Father dwelling in heaven and hearing our prayers. It thus became necessary to think of God as at least two in one, who were at least for a while existing in heaven and on earth, as distinct entities. In early Christianity, the Logos which was the Christ-spirit believed to be active as a divine presence in human life, in time became hypostatized as a third person, and so the Trinity was born. No doubt this process was shaped by the triadic beliefs which hovered in the Near Eastern air of the time, many of which included the belief in a divine atonement figure.

While Christianity may have a problem defining the essence of God, such is not the case in Islam.

They do blaspheme who say: ‘God is Christ the son of Mary.’ But said Christ: ‘O Children of Israel! Worship God, my Lord and your Lord.'[16]

They do blaspheme who say God is one of three in a Trinity: for there is no god except One God. If they desist not from their word (of blasphemy), verily a grievous penalty will befall the blasphemers among them.[17]

Suzanne Haneef puts the matter quite succinctly when she says:

But God is not like a pie or an apple which can be divided into three thirds which form one whole; if God is three persons or possesses three parts, He is assuredly not the Single, Unique, Indivisible Being which God is and which Christianity professes to believe in.[18]

Looking at it from another angle, the Trinity designates God as being three separate entities – the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. If God is the Father and also the Son, He would then be the Father of Himself because He is His Own Son. This not exactly logical. Christianity claims to be a monotheistic religion. Monotheism, however, has as its fundamental belief that God is One; the Christian doctrine of the Trinity – God being Three-in-One – is seen by Islam as a subtle form of polytheism. The concept of Holy Ghost as ?Filioque? (a double procession) was added to the Original Doctrine much later. As taught by the Greek theologians and advocated by St. Augustine, it simply makes the Holy Ghost a “go-between” communications or things that proceed from the Father and is received by an individual via Jesus Christ. One may argue that since the Holy Ghost emanates from God the Father, it is also God. In reality, this would only be possible if there was a “total emanation” (100% transfer). If that be the case, then the Primary Source has either annihilated Himself (Itself) or has produced a Clone. God the Father still exists and Christians with their Trinitarian Beliefs yet claim God is One. From this, we can see that Christians don’t revere just One God, they revere three.

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This is a charge not taken lightly by Christians, however. They, in turn, accuse the Muslims of not even knowing what the Trinity is, pointing out that the Qur’an sets it up as Allah the Father, Jesus the Son, and Mary his mother. While veneration of Mary has been a figment of the Catholic Church since 431 C.E. when she was given the title “Mother of God” by the Council of Ephesus, a closer examination of the verse in the Qur’an most often cited by Christians in support of their accusation, shows that the designation of Mary by the Qur’an as a “member” of the Trinity, is simply not true. While the Qur’an does condemn both Trinitarianism (Qur’an 4:17) and the worship of Jesus and his mother Mary (Qur’an 5:116), nowhere does it identify the actual three components of the Christian Trinity. The position of the Qur’an is that who or what comprises this doctrine is not important; what is important is that the very notion of a Trinity is an affront against the concept of One God. This is one of the reasons why some Christian theologians sees the Islamic doctrine as “the revival of the earlier Judeo-Christian faith”, in other words, the emergence of the compromiseless Monotheism.

Islam has historically been more skeptical of philosophical theology as a path to God than has Christianity, and in fact the divine unity has been affirmed by Muslims on the basis of two supra-rational sources: the revelation of the Qur’an and the unitive experience of the mystics and the saints. That God is ultimately One, and indivisible, is the conclusion of all higher mysticism, and Islam, as a religion of the divine unity par excellence, has linked faith with mystical experience very closely. An eighteenth century Bosnian mystic, Hasan Kaimi, expressed this in a poem which even today is chanted and loved by the people of Sarajevo:

    “O seeker of truth, it is your heart’s eye you must open.
    Know the Divine Unity today, through the path of love for Him.
    If you object: ‘I am waiting for my mind to grasp His nature’,
    Know the Divine Unity today, through the path of love for Him.

    “Should you wish to behold the visage of God,
    Surrender to Him, and invoke His names,
    When your soul is clear a light of true joy shall shine.
    Know the Divine Unity today, through the path of love for Him.”

The Trinity in Ancient Pagan Worship

Now let us study the “Trinity” and its roots in ancient pagan worship. The “Trinity” of Christendom, as defined in the creed of Nicea, is a merging of three distinct entities into one single entity, while remaining three distinct entities. We are told to speak of the three gods as one god, and never as three gods which would be considered heresy (Isaiah 43:10). They are considered to be co-eternal, co-substantial, and co-equal. However, only the first was self-existent. The others preceded from the first. This Neo-Platonic philosophical doctrine has its roots not in the inspiration of God, but in ancient paganism. Most ancient religions were built upon some sort of threefold distinction. Deities were always trinities of some kind or consisted of successive emanation in threes.

In India, we find the doctrine of the divine trinity called “Trimurti” (Sanskrit: “Three Forms”) consisting a triad of Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva. It is an inseparable unity though three in form. Worshippers are told to worship them as one deity. Scholars consider that the Trimurti doctrine as an attempt to reconcile different monotheistic approaches with one another and with the philosophic doctrine of ultimate reality (Brahman). Such concepts posed no problem to the logic of a Hindu worshipper since they were already used to worshipping gods with the body of a man and the head of an elephant (Ganesh), or monkey-faced gods (Hanuman), or gods with six arms, and so forth. Remember, classical Hinduism dates back to at least 500 BC, with roots extending as far back as 2000 BC.

The Brahmas also have their trinity. In their trinity, Vajrapani, Manjusri, and Avalokitesvara form a divine union of three gods into one god called “Buddha”. In Mahayana Buddhism, there is also the concept of trikaya (Sanskrit: “three bodies”), the concept of three bodies, or modes of being, of the Buddha: the dharmakaya (body of essence), the unmanifested mode, and the supreme state of absolute knowledge, the sambhogakaya (body of enjoyment), the heavenly mode; and the nirmanakaya (body of transformation), the earthly mode, the Buddha as he appeared on earth or manifested himself in an earthly bodhisattva, an earthly king, a painting or a natural object such as a lotus. The citizens of China and Japan also worship Buddha, but they know him as “Fo.” When they worship him they say “Fo, is one god but has three forms.”

Sir William Jones says:

Very respectable natives have assured me, that one or two missionaries have been absurd enough to in their zeal for the conversion of the Gentiles, to urge that the Hindoos were even now almost Christians; because their Brahma, Vishnu, and Mahesa (Siva), were no other than the Christian Trinity.[19]

The ancient Egyptians also worshipped a trinity. Their symbol of a wing, a globe, and a serpent is supposed to have stood for the different attributes of their god. There was also the triad of Osiris, Isis and Horus. In Babylon, there was a Trinity of Ishtar, Sin and Shamash; in Arabia, Al-Lat, Al-Uzza and Manat.

The Greeks also had their trinities. When making their sacrifices to their gods, they would sprinkle holy water on the altar three times, they would then sprinkle the people three times also. Frankincense was then taken with three fingers and strewed upon the alter three times. All of this was done because the oracle had proclaimed that all sacred things ought to be in threes. Remember that the philosophy of these people (The Greeks) is what was primarily responsible for defining the Christian “Trinitarian” nature of God. This was done through the writings of the Greek philosopher Plato regarding his “Logos” (“word”). Further, remember that the Gospels of the Bible were named the “Greek Gospels” for a reason: they were written in their language and based upon their philosophy.

T. W. Doane says that:

The works of Plato were extensively studied by the Church Fathers, one of whom joyfully recognizes in the great teacher, the schoolmaster who, in the fullness of time, was destined to educate the heathen for Christ, as Moses did the Jews. The celebrated passage : “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word Was God” is a fragment of some Pagan treatise on the Platonic philosophy, evidently written by Irenaeus. It is quoted by Amelius, a Pagan philosopher as strictly applicable to the Logos, or Mercury, the Word, apparently as an honorable testimony borne to the Pagan deity by a barbarian?We see then that the title “Word” or “Logos,” being applied to Jesus, is another piece of Pagan amalgamation with Christianity. It did not receive its authorized Christian form until the middle of the second century after Christ. The ancient pagan Romans worshipped a Trinity. An oracle is said to have declared that there was ‘First God, then the Word, and with them the Spirit’. Here we see the distinctly enumerated, God, the Logos, and the Holy Spirit or Holy Ghost, in ancient Rome, where the most celebrated temple of this capital – that of Jupiter Capitolinus – was dedicated to three deities, which three deities were honored with joint worship.[20]

Trinities were not confined to these groups alone, but the Persians, the Assyrians, the Phoenicians, the Scandinavians, the Druids, the inhabitants of Siberia, the ancient Mexicans, the Peruvians, and many others, all worshipped “Trinitarian” pagan deities (among a great multitude of other gods) long before the Council of Nicaea of 325 C.E. officially recognized this to be God’s “true” nature.

Conclusions

We can see that the doctrine of the Trinity is a concept conceived entirely by man; there is no sanction whatsoever from God to be found regarding the matter simply because the whole idea of a Trinity of Divine beings has no place in monotheism. The fact is that an intelligent, literate person, unacquainted with such matters (not having any knowledge for or against or about the Trinity) cannot go from reading the Bible to coming to knowledge of the Trinity. A person cannot read the Bible and then write anything like the Nicene creed. Christians can only arrive at the Trinity through “eisegesis” (in contrast to what we might call “exegesis”). Christians read things into the Bible that just aren’t there. They have a theology-first not a scripture-first mentality. Christians are so determined to find the Trinity in the Bible that they will read a verse like the one in Isaiah: “Holy, holy, holy, is the Almighty God that I praise” and then come to the conclusion that since the word “holy” is mentioned three times, that must mean there is a Trinity!

In the Qur’an, God’s final Revelation to mankind, we find His stand quite clearly stated in a number of eloquent passages:

“…your God is One God: whoever expects to meet his Lord, let him work righteousness, and, in the worship of his Lord, admit no one as partner.” (Qur’an 18:110)

“…take not, with God, another object of worship, lest you should be thrown into Hell, blameworthy and rejected.” (Qur’an 17:39)

Because, as God tells us over and over again in a Message that is echoed throughout all His revealed Scriptures:

“…I am your Lord and Cherisher: therefore, serve Me (and no other)” (Qur’an 21:92)

And only God knows best!

[5] Christian Theism, T&T. Clark, Edinburg, 1984, p. 38-39

[6] “Deity of Christ”, Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible Vol. 2, Second ed., 1977, p. 88

[7] “Trinity”, Encyclopaedia Britannica Vol 11, p. 928

[8] Collier’s Encyclopedia CD-ROM

[9] Compton’s Encyclopedia CD-ROM

[10] The New Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XIV, p. 295

[11] As cited by Muhammad Ata’ Ur-Rahim, Op. Cit., p. 198

[12] William Lutz, Doublespeak, Harper Perennial, New York, 1990, p 5

[13] J. Fortman, The Christian Trinity in History, St. Bede’s Publication, 1982, Introduction page

[14] Muhammad Ata’ Ur-Rahim, Op. Cit., p. 198

[15] Luke 4:8

[16] Sura’ Al-Maaidah (5):72

[17] Sura’ Al-Maaidah (5):73

[18] Suzanne Haneef, What Everyone Should Know About Islam And Muslims, Library of Islam, 1985, pp.183-184

[19] T.W. Doane, Bible Myths and Their Parallels in Other Religions, p. 370

[20] Ibid., pp. 375-376

Footnotes

  1. John Hick, ed., The Myth of God Incarnate, Preface []
  2. Deuteronomy 6:4 []
  3. Excerpts from the Athanasian Creed []
  4. Encyclopedia Britannica, under the heading “Trinity” []
  5. Muhammad Ata’ Ur-Rahim, Jesus: A Prophet of Islam, MWH London Publishers, 1977, p. 93-94 []

2 Comments

  1. Have a book out on this: The Development of the Trinity. Step by step of the problems.

    Go to Amazon or Barnes and Noble. Can be downloaded, or book purchased soon.

  2. Mark 10:17-18 (English Standard Version)

    The Rich Young Man
    And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.

    Luke 18:18-19 (English Standard Version)

    The Rich Ruler
    And a ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 19And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.
    John 4:19 – Jesus was a prophet.
    John 4:23-24 – Worship in spirit and truth.
    John 14:28 – One was greater than the other.
    John 5:19, 5:30, 7:28, 8:28 – Jesus was helpless.
    John 5:20 – The Father showed the son.
    John 5:30 and 6:38 – Jesus and God had different wills.
    John 5:31-32 – Jesus’ witness was not true.
    John 6:11 and 11:41-42 – Jesus gave thanks.
    John 6:32 – The Father was the provider, not the son.
    John 7:29, 16:5, 16:28 – Jesus was from God.
    John 7:16, 12:49, 14:24, 17:14 – Jesus’ words were not his.
    John 8:42 – Jesus did not come of himself.
    John 10:29 – “My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all.”
    John 14:1 – Jesus said, “…believe also in me.”
    John 14:16, 17:1, 17:9, 17:11, 17:15 – Jesus prayed.
    John 14:31 and 15:10 – Jesus followed commands.
    John 17:6-8 – “I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me.”
    John 20:17 – Jesus had a god.
    Exodus 33:20, John 1:18, 1 Timothy 6:16 – No one saw God.
    Isaiah 42:8 – Do not praise and worship images.
    Isaiah 45:1 – “Anointed” does not mean “God”.
    Matthew 14:23, 19:13, 26:39, 27:46, 26:42-44 – Jesus prayed.
    Matthew 24:36 – Jesus was not all-knowing.
    Matthew 26:39 – Jesus and God had different wills.
    Matthew 28:18 – All power was given to Jesus.
    Mark 1:35, 6:46, 14:35-36 – Jesus prayed.
    Mark 10:17-18 and Luke 18:18-19 – Jesus denied divinity.
    Mark 12:28-29 – God is one.
    Mark 13:32 – Jesus was not all-knowing.
    Mark 16:19 and Luke 22:69 – Jesus at the right hand of God.
    Luke 3:21, 5:16, 6:12, 9:18, 9:28, 11:1-4, 22:41 – Jesus prayed.
    Luke 4:18, 9:48, 10:16 – Jesus was from God.
    Luke 7:16, 13:33, 24:18-19 – Jesus was a prophet.
    Luke 10:21 – Jesus gave thanks.
    Luke 23:46 – The spirit of Jesus was commended to God.
    Acts 2:22 – Jesus was “a man approved of God.”
    Romans 8:34 – Jesus was an intercessor.
    1 Timothy 2:5 – Jesus was the mediator between God and humans

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