Sanibonani ! Now these series could end up being several books, and maybe in the future it will. Although thats a job for the coming generations for certain... Because it is evident now that ancient world history needs a serious edit. As per now, we will continue the unraveling of the doctrine of trinity (three gods in one), the very thing people have been told is true, but what in further investigation turns out to be very old man made stories. These old stories are repeated today all around the world bringing people further from the One True God, So NiNi na NiNi.
To better understand these stories and characters of men, like Tertullian, Athanasius, Origen and the clear Greek influence on the message of the Gospel. We must therefore see and read what they wrote. In later articles we will look closer at people like Ignatius of Antioch (who was said to have been taught by the Disciple John himself), and others like Polycarp and Clement of Rome. Teaching different things than some of the aforementioned characters. In this one however, we will deepen our research of the trinity. Giving more proof of it being an idea from the Greeks and Babylon before that. We must carefully try to set some dates (to make sense of all this), but more importantly expose what was going on in the early years after Christ.
For starters, lets remember the The New Bible Dictionary (1996) again explaining things very clearly:
“...the formal doctrine of the Trinity was the result of several inadequate attempts to explain who and what the Christian God really is ... To deal with these problems the Church Fathers met in [A.D.] 325 at the Council of Nicaea to set out an orthodox biblical definition concerning the divine identity.” However, it wasn't until 381, “at the Council of Constantinople, [that] the divinity of the Spirit was affirmed.”
Now we know now it was Tertullian of ancient Roman Carthage who introduced the term `trinity`, but what he taught and believed is very different to the trinity being taught today.
Tertullian. Credit: Tim Ladwig
Since he then introduced this term, it means the trinity doctrine (as we know it today) could not have existed at the time of Tertullian. If the concept did not exist in his time, then it was not around in the time of Chris and the apostles. Tertullian did introduce a great deal of pagan ideas into the worship, as was foretold would happen by Paul in his letters. Tertullian taught oblations for the dead and furthermore went on (in true Roman style) to make a sign of the cross on the forehead of believers.... People was also dipped three times in his baptising. Tertullian freely admits (in his writings) that these practises was adopted from pagan teachings and must have known that they could not have been supported from Scripture. But he was under the belief that if they adopted these rituals new recruits would find it easier to join Christianity. Tertullian believed in the Godhead, and he was just a forerunner of the coming Nicene doctrine. He called it trinitas (which means something like: "Threeness") which was meant to emphasise the manifold character of God.
In Against Praxeas, Tertullian wrote:
“Trinity and economy, persons and substance.” (The Son is distinct from the Father, and the Spirit from both the Father and the Son.) “These three are one substance, not one person; and it is said, 'I and my Father are one' in respect not of the singularity of number but the unity of the substance.”
Now in this book, Tertullian against Praxeas, he wrote that the Son was not co-eternal with the Father and did have a beginning as the begotten Son of God. He also did not teach that the Holy Spirit was a literal being. So the trinity doctrine as we know it today did not even come from the man who introduced the word Trinity. This doctrine was then not formalised until long after the books of the Bible had been completed (collected) and the apostles and writers of the books was long gone, but also long after the man (Tertullian) who introduced the word trinity (trinitas) was in his grave. This took theologians centuries to get the way they felt was right. However the explanation they settled on, is by no means a clear one. Nor is it logical.
Aiden W. Tozer (1897-1963) wrote in The Knowledge of the Holy (1961) that the trinity was an (Tozer, 1961:17-18):
...“incomprehensible mystery” (..) and that attempts to understand it “must remain forever futile.”
Tozer admits that Churches, “without pretending to understand,” have nevertheless continued to teach this doctrine, then remarkably concludes the fact that (Tozer, 1961:23):
“..it cannot be satisfactorily explained, instead of being against it, is in its favour.”
The New Unger's Bible Dictionary (1988) has an article that explains the concept of a trinity is humanly incomprehensible (NUBD, 1988:1308)
“It is admitted by all who thoughtfully deal with this subject that the Scripture revelation here leads us into the presence of a deep mystery; and that all human attempts at expression are of necessity imperfect.”
Cyril C. Richardson (1909) - 1976) was a professor of Church history at New York's Union Theological Seminary, though a dedicated and devout Trinitarian wrote in his The Doctrine of The Trinity (1958:149)
“My conclusion, then, about the doctrine of the Trinity is that it is an artificial construct ... It produces confusion rather than clarification; and while the problems with which it deals are real ones, the solutions it offers are not illuminating. It has posed for many Christians dark and mysterious statements, which are ultimately meaningless, because it does not sufficiently discriminate in its use of terms.”
Richardson also admitted,
“Much of the defence of the Trinity as a 'revealed' doctrine, is really an evasion of the objections that can be brought against it.”
Lyman J. Abbott (1835-1922) editor of A Dictionary of Religious Knowledge (1885) states this regarding the trinity:
“Precisely what that doctrine is, or rather precisely how it is to be explained, Trinitarians are not agreed among themselves.”
Now this is a crucial point, the people who believe in the trinity cannot explain it themselves what it is they believe in. The reason it cannot be explain in simplicity is because you wont find this in Scripture, which should be the place where a man seeking SoNiNi. The trinity does not come from the Father.
These following excerpts are taken from a great number of reputable sources and quite clever and distinguished authors (many of them confirming and believing in the trinity), but freely admit that the word trinity and the doctrine is no where to be found in the Bible.
If you read The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia (1988), they acknowledge that “'trinity' is a second-century term found nowhere in the Bible, and the Scriptures present no finished trinitarian statement.” — (ISBE, 1988:914 vol.IV). It further states that “church fathers crystallised the doctrine in succeeding centuries”, which have already been through was long after the apostles had passed from the scene.
Martin Luther (1483-1546), the German priest who finally said enough is enough to the catholic church, he was the one to have initiated the Protestant Reformation. If you read The Sermons of Martin Luther 81988) you can read the following (Lenker, 1988:406):
“It is indeed true that the name 'Trinity' is nowhere to be found in the Holy Scriptures, but has been conceived and invented by man.”
Historian and writer Herbert George Wells (1866-1946) writes in his noted work The Outline of History (1920) the following (Wells, 1920:499 vol.2)
“There is no evidence that the apostles of Jesus ever heard of the trinity—at any rate from him.”
Moving on to The HarperCollins Encyclopaedia of Catholicism that says (HCE, 1995:564-565):
“Today, however, scholars generally agree that there is no doctrine of the Trinity as such in either the OT or the NT ... It would go far beyond the intention and thought-forms of the OT to suppose that a late-fourth-century or thirteenth-century Christian doctrine can be found there ... Likewise, the NT does not contain an explicit doctrine of the Trinity.”
Furthermore The HarperCollins Bible Dictionary (1996) states the following under "Trinity":
“The formal doctrine of the Trinity as it was defined by the great church councils of the fourth and fifth centuries is not to be found in the NT.”
American Bible scholar and theologian Charles Chaldwell Ryrie (1925-2016) wrote in Basic Theology (Ryrie, 1986:89),
“Many doctrines are accepted by evangelicals as being clearly taught in the Scripture for which there are no proof texts. The doctrine of the Trinity furnishes the best example of this. It is fair to say that the Bible does not clearly teach the doctrine of the Trinity . . . In fact, there is not even one proof text, if by proof text we mean a verse or passage that 'clearly' states that there is one God who exists in three persons.”
Professor Ryrie went on to say (Ryrie, 1989:90):
“The above illustrations prove the fallacy of concluding that if something is not proof texted in the Bible we cannot clearly teach the results . . . If that were so, I could never teach the doctrine of the Trinity.”
Shirley C. Guthrie (1927-2004), professor of theology at Columbia Theological Seminary wrote in Christian Doctrine (1994, 77-77):
“The Bible does not teach the doctrine of the Trinity. Neither the word 'trinity' itself nor such language as 'one-in-three,' 'three-in-one,' one 'essence' (or 'substance'), and three 'persons,' is biblical language. The language of the doctrine is the language of the ancient church taken from classical Greek philosophy.”
Millard J. Erickson, research professor of theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and author of the 1312 systematic work Christian Theology wrote in God in three Persons: A Contemporary Interpretation of the Trinity (1995) that the Trinity.... (Millard, 1995:12):
“...is not clearly or explicitly taught anywhere in Scripture, yet it is widely regarded as a central doctrine, indispensable to the Christian faith. In this regard, it goes contrary to what is virtually an axiom of biblical doctrine, namely, that there is a direct correlation between the scriptural clarity of a doctrine and its cruciality to the faith and life of the church. In view of the difficulty of the subject and the great amount of effort expended to maintain this doctrine, we may well ask ourselves what might justify all this trouble.”
Millard further stated that the trinity teaching... (1995, 20):
“....is not present in biblical thought, but arose when biblical thought was pressed into this foreign mould [of Greek concepts]. Thus, the doctrine of the Trinity goes beyond and even distorts what the Bible says about God.”
Further Millard wrote (1995, 108-109):
“It is claimed that the doctrine of the Trinity is a very important, crucial, and even basic doctrine. If that is indeed the case, should it not be somewhere more clearly, directly, and explicitly stated in the Bible? If this is the doctrine that especially constitutes Christianity's uniqueness ... how can it be only implied in the biblical revelation? ... For here is a seemingly crucial matter where the Scriptures do not speak loudly and clearly. Little direct response can be made to this charge. It is unlikely that any text of Scripture can be shown to teach the doctrine of the Trinity in a clear, direct, and unmistakable fashion.”
Since the trinity or the trinitarian belief is not found anywhere in the Bible, as a great deal of scholars and theologians admit, how then did it become the important and core teaching of allot of "believers" today ?
Theology professors Roger Olson and Christopher Hall explain part of the puzzle in their book The Trinity, (Olson & Hall, 2002: 1-2):
“It is understandable that the importance placed on this doctrine is perplexing to many lay Christians and students. Nowhere is it clearly and unequivocally stated in Scripture ... How can it be so important if it is not explicitly stated in Scripture? (...) The doctrine of the Trinity developed gradually after the completion of the New Testament in the heat of controversy, but the church fathers who developed it believed they were simply exegeting [explaining] divine revelation and not at all speculating or inventing new ideas. The full-blown doctrine of the Trinity was spelled out in the fourth century at two great ecumenical (universal) councils: Nicea (325 A.D.) and Constantinople (381 A.D.).”