There is a 50-year gap in church history following the end of the first century. John, the last of the apostles, died around AD 100. About AD 140, when history picks up, the Apostolic Fathers appear on the scene. There is a vast difference between New Testament writings and the literature of the Apostolic Fathers (Harnack, I, 133-136). While dissimilar from that of the original apostles, the writings of the Apostolic Fathers do not indicate any metaphysical speculations or new concepts of God. Such Apologists as Ignatius of Antioch saw no relevancy in placing the Holy Spirit on the same level as the Father and the Son. Justin Martyr had no dogmatic view with regard to the Holy Spirit and did not describe any kind of relationship between the Father and Son. Athenagoras did mention a triad early in his writings, but Justin’s disciple, Tatian, made only a vague reference to a triad and had no doctrine regarding the Trinity. At the time of the Apostolic Fathers, most Christians were unconcerned about the interrelations of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They felt sufficiently informed without any knowledge of a triad (Grant 1966, 69-85). Over a period of time new concepts did eventually arise because of the changing environment in which the church found itself-an environment which contributed considerably to the shaping of faith and theology. The heavenly Father described by Christ in the Sermon on the Mount was altered to the Trinity-a concept which both Hatch and Harnack describe as a degeneration rather than a development. It was a corruption of the Truth from its earliest simplicity (Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, edited by James Hastings, s.v. “God”).
Theologians felt the need to define the Godhead in order to separate the resurrected Jesus from the God of the Jews. Without considering the role of the Holy Spirit, they were trying to determine the difference between the Father and the Son (Richardson, 18-19). The doctrine of God was quite flexible during the early centuries of the church, and the emphasis changed from generation to generation (ibid, 135). Even defining the Holy Spirit was in a state of flux. No well-defined doctrine had been developed (ibid, 52).
The Arian Controversy
No heated arguments arose until about AD 320. Then the Arian controversy broke out, which led to a series of doctrinal disputes. The argument involved the nature and being of the Logos in becoming man in Christ and then the relationship of the Logos to the Father. Of necessity, the Holy Spirit was dragged into the dispute, as Arius, who had started the argument, described the Holy Spirit as the first creature produced by the Son (Kurtz, I, 316-318, 323). Arius, who was a presbyter at Alexandria, disputed the teaching of his superior, Alexander. Arius advocated three persons in God, but held they were not equal in glory. The Father was supreme, while the Son was given His divinity by the Father before the Creation of the world. The Holy Spirit was also divine but inferior to the Father. This controversy led to the Nicene Council of AD 325, which adopted what is regarded as the orthodox standard. Those who opposed the orthodox view correctly forecast that tritheism (three gods) would be the inevitable consequence. It took three more centuries, however, to decide anything about the Holy Spirit. The Trinity is now described by modern theologians as divine powers, or attributes, rather than three Persons. And even today theologians are unable to conclude in what manner or what sense the three attributes or powers have divine nature in common, so that there is only one God ( McClintock and Strong, s.v. “Trinity”).
Arianism-the doctrine of Arius-was a new doctrine, a mixture of Hellenism modified by Scripture. It would have overthrown Christianity had it gained the ascendancy in the Greek-speaking world. While it fostered monotheism (one God) as opposed to polytheism (many gods) and upheld the one supreme God, it constructed a descending divine triad which could be easily recognized in the teachings of the philosophers. As a result it appealed to the pagans-both cultured and half-cultured-that Constantine had brought into the fold (Harnack, IV, 41, 43-44). Arius had started the controversy by teaching that Christ did not exist before he was either begotten, created, defined, or founded. His slogan was: “There was when he was not.” The Nicene Council, which rejected Arianism, stated: “We anathematize those who say or think or preach that the Son of God is a creature or has come into being or has been made and is not truly begotten, or that there was when he was not.” (Grant 1986, 160-161). What Arianism taught was that the Trinity consisted of one uncreated and two created beings. As a result, the doctrine made the worship of God completely illogical and irreligious. Many accepted it because they were not yet “Christianized” and did not understand its implications (Ency. of Religion and Ethics, s.v. “God”). Arianism made Christ a middle-being between God and man. Christ was viewed as a demi-god who preexisted, who created the world, yet was created out of nothing. As the first creature of God he was of a different essence and not eternal. Anyone versed in Gnosticism can see the resemblance to the Demiurge-the Gnostic god. There were variations in this Arian view, notably the Socinians, who taught that Christ, though conceived supernaturally, was a mere man but favored with extraordinary revelations. He was elevated to heaven and deified as a result of His holy life. He has now been entrusted with the government of His Church which he founded. This view can be seen today in Unitarianism, which we shall cover later. Arianism substituted a created and delegated divinity for the incarnate God. The Nicene Council declared that Christ is God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with His Father (McClintock and Strong, s.v. “Christology”). Also, the statement “true God from true God” was an affirmation that the philosophical distinction between the perfect God and the subordinate Demiurge had been repudiated (Grant 1986, 162).
Jesus revealed the Father to His disciples. Over the next three centuries various distortions led men away from this truth. Greek thought, such as Platonism, regarded God as dwelling in the realm of pure idea, a purity that could neither be expressed nor involved in the physical world. Arius and his followers had a preconceived idea of the nature of God (Bowie, 89-90). Greek thought is seen in many of these views. For example, Paul of Somasata, bishop of Antioch, who was an Arian forerunner, held that Christ should be exalted because of a special union with God by means of illumination from the divine reason. Christ did not begin as God by nature, but became so because of progressive development. Christ, then, did not exist before His birth, and if He were regarded to have existed with God, it would have been understood as ideal existence in the divine reason (Neander, I, 602-603). Arius taught that Christ was not God, but rather the Logos, the first and highest of all created beings. Since He was created out of nothing, He was not co-eternal with the Father. Also, Christ had a will that was subject to change, but since He had always directed it to that which is good, He became morally unchangeable. As a result, God bestowed upon Him the glory He deserved as a reward for His virtue. Arius’ reasoning was that Christ was either a divine original essence like the Father (in which case there would be two Gods) or He was like all other created, formed, or begotten creatures of God. Arianism was rejected by the Church Fathers who believed that the Son was of the same substance as the Father. Therefore, all ideas that He was created or even subordinate to the Father were discarded (Neander, II, 405, 407, 410). Arius even applied certain of the teachings of Origen. One of these was that since Christ was “eternally generated,” He was so subordinate to the Father that He could not be regarded as divine in the fullest sense of the word. He was a creature like the Holy Spirit, which was even less than the Son. This view denied the full reality of God incarnate in Jesus Christ (Pittenger, 39-40). Arius believed that if he made the Son co-equal with the Father, he would create two self-existent principals and bring an end to monotheism (Sloyan, 59).
Some of the Church Fathers resented being forced to define relations within the Deity that could not be comprehended by human beings (Ency. of Religion and Ethics, s.v. “God”). In the Greek language “substance” is defined by the word ousis, which meant “that which truly is.” “Substance” was the word used to define the idea of essence or nature. Athanasius held the view that the word homoousios defined the Son as one substance with the Father, that the Son was eternal before all ages, and was thus able to save to the uttermost as God (Pittenger, 41). When said to be of the same substance, the Son was truly and essentially God as was the Father (McClintock and Strong, s.v. “Substance”). While the word homoousios is not Scriptural, it nevertheless defined the full and absolute deity of the Son. This identity with the Father solved the problem of divine unity (Grant 1986, 162).
Tertullian, the Latin priest and ecclesiastical writer, had much earlier defined the Godhead the same way the Nicene Council had. He defined the distinctions in the Godhead as “persons,” which is not, by the way, the present understanding of the word. The Godhead is now viewed as forms, or manifestations. Tertullian created the blueprint that later orthodoxy accepted by introducing the ideas of “substance” and “person.” He wrote that the administration of the divine sovereignty of emanated persons (radiating from the Godhead) could not endanger the unity of the Godhead. Even when the unity evolves from the Trinity itself, it does not abolish the unity. But, as Harnack points out, this is nothing more than the Gnostic doctrine of aeons applied in its full form. The difference is that Tertullian and Hippolytus limited the usage to the Father and the Son, while the Gnostics far exceeded that number (Harnack, II, 257-258). Tertullian believed that Christ’s statement, “I and the Father are one,” referred to unity of substance, not singleness of number. It was for this reason, he believed, that the word “Son” was the most accurate way to define the Logos who radiated from the Godhead. The fact is: Tertullian’s entire view did not differ essentially from the teaching of contemporaneous and subsequent Greek philosophers (ibid, II, 259).
Tritheism is the belief that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit make up three essences, as well as three persons. Monarchianism is the belief that there is only one “person” who manifests himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit by a single hypostasis. Trinitarianism holds that there are three persons but one “essence.” “Essence” means the nature of a thing as opposed to its existence. Hypostasis is taken to mean substance, and hence person. The orthodox view is that there is one nature or essence in God but three persons or hypostases. The word “hypostasis” has led to much dissension among both Greek and Latin theologians. The Council of Nicea defined hypostasis as essence or substance. Therefore, it was regarded as heretical to say that Christ was not the same hypostasis (substance) as the Father. The attempt to define the human and divine nature in Christ was called the hypostatical union. McClintock and Strong point out that many fruitless as well as metaphysical questions have been debated among Christian sects in an attempt to clarify the divine nature of God. Because of the persistent failure to realize that the union of the body and soul can neither be explained nor comprehended, the more mysterious the subject has become (McClintock and Strong, s.v. “Hypostasis”). Heated debates occurred between the Latin and Greek churches over the meaning of hypostasis and persona. The Latin church held to the view that the word “hypostasis” meant substance or essence. This view meant there were three Gods. On the other hand, the Greek church felt that the word “person” did not guard against the Sabellian notion that there was only one Divinity and that the Son and the Holy Spirit were powers or offices of that one God, who as an individual, sustained three relations (ibid, s.v. “Personality”).
Monarchians, who refused to recognize any divine being besides the Father, viewed the Logos as divine energy, wisdom, or reason which illuminates the soul of those who are righteous. While they denied that Christ was divine in every sense, they held He was divine in a certain sense. Some Monarchians believed that the Logos, in becoming man and subordinating himself to the Father, was not an adequate representation of Christ. Their view was that the names of the Father and Son were two different modes of designating one God. As He dealt with the world, He was known as the Father; but, in His appearance in humanity, He was called the Son (Neander, I, 577). Other Monarchists believed that it was the Father who manifested himself in the flesh (ibid, 592). They viewed John’s gospel as an allegory and that the Father and the Son had proceeded from himself. Hippolytus, who took them to task over the issue, was accused of believing in two Gods (Harnack, III, 62-64, 68). One Monarchist, Sabellius of Ptolemais, in Pentapolis, Africa, taught that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were the names of three different phases by which the divine essence revealed itself. While the Father remained the same, He evolved himself into the Son and the Holy Spirit. Like the Gnostics, he believed that Christ was no more than a transitory appearance who returned to the Father, thus His personal appearance was annihilated (Neander, I, 595, 598). Normally the Holy Spirit was not brought into any arguments with the Monarchians. But Sabellius was the first to bring the Holy Spirit into the fray. Prior to this time (AD 215) the Holy Spirit was viewed as the agency and influence of God. Sabellius insisted that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one and the same, each one a manifestation of the one God (Walker, 74). Epiphanius said that the Sabellians got their entire argument from the Gospel of the Egyptians, found in the Apocrypha. One other form of Monarchianism was Modalism. It was the view that the Father, Son, and later the Spirit, were modes by which God manifested himself. So, when the Son suffered, it was the Father suffering.
Cappadocian Theology was very important in establishing the orthodox position. The three Cappadocian Fathers were Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nazianzus, and his brother Gregory of Nyssa. As the successors of Athanasius, they were responsible for bringing about the final victory over Arianism. This was done by appealing to Greek philosophy. Using concepts taken from Plato and Aristotle, which reflected the best of pagan thought, they brought about a compromise between Judaism and Hellenism (Ency. of Religion and Ethics, s.v. “Cappadocian Theology”). They taught that the Christian concept of God was the true average between Greek and Jewish thought. They emphasized the plurality of hypostases as a phase of truth in Greek polytheism. But polytheism itself was eliminated by the divine unity which removed the idea of divine plurality (Harnack, III, 142-143, fn).
The question at the Council of Nicea was how to understand the relationship between God and Christ, who had become man. The two major questions were God’s inner nature and how He could be manifested in the flesh. Theodotus of Byzantium insisted that Christ was merely a man who had been given the Holy Spirit at baptism. Arius feared the glory of God would be diminished if the Son was regarded equal with the Father. In the end, the argument came down to two words-homoousia and homoiousios, that is, “like substance” or “equality of attributes.” Athanasius held firm to homoousia-“like substance”-because homoiousios-“equality of attributes”- meant there would be aspects in which Christ would not be like the Father. His view eventually prevailed, but divisions in the church have remained for centuries. The Arian controversy brought forth the affirmation that while there is one essence in the Godhead, and in that unity there are three external modes of existence, which are now called hypostases (Ency. of Religion and Ethics, s.v. “God”).
What the Nicene Council really did was to sustain the nonrational concept of trinitarian theology, that it was not irrational but was beyond reason (Grant 1986, 163). The fact is: The theological distinction between words was arbitrary. The Emperor sided with the orthodox view but society, as a whole, which was heathen, sided with the anti-Nicenes. The whole issue was unintelligible to the laity and to most of the bishops. The majority of the bishops accepted the orthodox view even though they did not understand what was being said.
The issue at stake was the attempt by the Arians to separate Christ from God and to relegate Him to the status of mediator and a partial revelation of what God is (Bowie, 85). The Nicene Creed was intended to test the orthodoxy of the bishops, not the faith of those being baptized (Grant 1986, 169). The result of the Nicene Council was that Dogmatics became anti-rational and was separated from clear thinking, defensible concepts. The propensity for mystery created a doctrine that was a true mystery. The educated lay members viewed the orthodox formula as an unexplainable mystery and not as an expression of their faith. The whole Logos doctrine had become unintelligible to the laity. The accepted view was that Christianity is the revelation of something incapable of being understood. The duty of the people was to merely believe. The result was that worship became directed from Christ to the bones of martyrs, image worship, adulation of angels and martyrs, crosses and amulets, and the magical worship of the Mass (Harnack, IV, 106-107).
The reader should be aware that the doctrine of the Trinity is not the product of early Christianity. It was not even expressed until the end of the second century. Novation of Rome wrote one of the earliest treatises regarding the Trinity and at that time affirmed the existence of two Gods (Grant 1986, 158, 160). Even after the Council of Nicea, there was no clear picture of the personality of the Holy Spirit and its relationship with the Father and the Son. The definition of the Holy Spirit given at the Council was so incomplete that it was a cause of the schism between the Eastern and Western church five hundred years later. What is clear is that as late as AD 170-180, the theological ideas about the Spirit had not been clarified, but by the end of the fourth century the debates included the Spirit as well as the Son (Grant 1986, 145, 149).
The last stage in the development of the doctrine of the Trinity was accomplished by Augustine. He was the first one to give classic expression to the distinctive nature of the Spirit and where it fit into the Trinity. It was his view that the Spirit proceeded from both the Father and the Son, co-equally. He preserved the tradition of three “persons” in one substance but was never able to overcome the contradictions of mingling philosophy and religion. He held that the whole Godhead is active and involved in all that God does (Pittenger, 41-42). The solution regarding the Holy Spirit was reached by putting to use arbitrary distinctions not found in the Bible (Richardson, 44-45). Protestant reformers accepted the doctrine of the Trinity as formulated by the Creeds (Garvie, 368). Harnack says that Augustine’s speculations could not give clear expression to its new and valuable thought and that the doctrine of the Trinity can scarcely be said to promote piety anywhere or anytime. Rather, it has drawn men’s minds off the living realities of the historical Jesus. In the actual life of Christendom, the doctrine of the Trinity has never been interwoven with thought and expression (Ency. of Religion and Ethics, s.v. “God”).
One would not be exaggerating to say that more has been written about the Trinity than any other Bible subject. It is no joke when somebody said that one is in danger of losing his soul by denying the Trinity and of losing his wits trying to understand it. Those who deny the doctrine of the Trinity view it as an embarrassment to reason. They regard it as a burden to biblical criticism, a matter of mere antiquarian interest, and of no practical value. They say there are boundaries to reason and that the doctrine of the Trinity forces one to recognize the limits of reason. For them, the doctrine has failed the test of practicality, and there is no connection between it and the life of faith. It serves only as a distraction to the believer (Stephens, 75-76).
Trinitarians, on the other hand, tell us that the gospel cannot be truly stated or proclaimed without acknowledging what is explicit in the doctrine of the Trinity (Welch, 290). McClintock and Strong inform us that the doctrine of the person of Christ is the central doctrine of Christianity and that the ancient church laid down the Christological foundation in gigantic and sanctified speculation (McClintock and Strong, s.v. “Christology”). The doctrine of the work and person of Christ was the main subject of the theological speculation and controversy in the early church, and to this day it remains the most prominent religious problem. The fact is: The doctrine of the Trinity is not specifically found in the New Testament. It is a creation of the fourth century! While some elements in the New Testament seem to point to it, others point away from it (Richardson, 17). Bowie quotes Dean Inge, of St. Paul’s Cathedral, who said, “We cannot penetrate the mind of the Absolute.” The Dean then went on to state there are philosophical problems we cannot solve and realities which we have to accept, not to account for (Bowie, 113). There is no mystery concerning the oneness of God and no attempt to depict three Gods in the New Testament. The word Trinity is never used and there is no indication the idea had even taken form. The common practice for most people is to read the New Testament by applying ideas of a later age to it. In the days of the apostles, the doctrine of the Trinity had yet to be created. The view is that the substance for the doctrine was there, but it took three centuries before the doctrine became the accepted belief. At this time it developed into a metaphysical doctrine regarding the interior nature and life of God (Clarke, 230-231). Theological arguments, by use of various terms which made the disputes incomprehensible, separated men of good will for decades. From the very beginning, the idea of “one being, three persons” was open to several interpretations, and even today it masks more problems than it solves (Berkhof, 110).
When the doctrine of the Trinity was formulated, it was only natural to bring the Holy Spirit into the equation. In its final form in the fifth century, the result was not a Trinity (a plurality of Gods) but a triunity (God is one, consisting of three persons). This unity, of course, was made up of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Without this unity the outcome would have been tritheism (the worship of three distinct gods), which would have been nothing more than polytheism. There has been much difficulty in defining and defending this triunity, not only in admitting the “threeness” but in preserving the unity. Throughout the entire process the belief has been closer to a triunity than to a Trinity. There is difficulty in keeping the unity precise and clear when one or another of them exerts influence on the salvation of men. The fact is: The doctrine of the Trinity is the most abstract of concepts and perplexing even when regarded as vital. In effect, it has been basically absent from large areas of Christian thought (Clarke, 332-336). Furthermore, to try to define the relations between Father and Son, or to try to deduce the place and function of the Holy Spirit, is an attempt to set ourselves up as God, forgetting that His ways are not our ways (Grant 1966, 101).
Some of the most eminent theologians during the time the doctrine of the Trinity was being formulated were adverse to the whole discussion. Eusebius, bishop of Caesarea in Palestine, who was held in great repute as a learned and accomplished theologian, dreaded this intrusion into such matters. He asked who knows how the soul becomes united with the body and how it leaves? And what is the essence of angels, and what is the essence of our own souls? He then went on to ask why do we presume to see ourselves, or to search out the perfect knowledge of the essence of the eternal Godhead? Why inquire after the incomprehensible? Eusebius said that in order to partake of eternal life we must believe on Him; he wrote it was not important to know how He was begotten of the Father (Neander, II, 412). Meletius of Armenia, another bishop, censured the speculative pride which was behind the quest to know and determine incomprehensible things. He reminded the bishops that the apostles said human knowledge was in part; perfect knowledge would come to us in the life to come (ibid, 458).
Today, there is no uniform view regarding the nature of God. In modern times concepts of the Trinity have been modified and re-modified. The only Scriptural support for the concept is 1 John 5:7, yet all authorities recognize this text is an interpolation, not found in the original text. Because fourth century theologians defined the nature of God in broad, sweeping terms, the debate has remained unresolved for nearly 2,000 years. The doctrine of the Trinity is regarded as non-essential for salvation, and many view it as merely a historical matter. Many churches today view God as one and do not attempt to define how. The nineteenth century view that the concept of God is of secondary importance continues to this day. Some view it as wholly irrelevant; others consider it important for limited theological purposes only.
The Role of Greek Philosophy in the Trinity Doctrine
We have commented somewhat on the role of Greek philosophy in the development of the Trinity doctrine. The interested reader may find a more detailed evaluation beneficial. The most decisive factor that brought about change in religious and moral convictions, as well as moods, was Greek philosophy. The intellectualism of Greek ethics was overcome, and a union between reason, on one hand, and the belief in revelation and mysticism, on the other, took place.
The doctrine of the Logos had a decisive and widespread influence upon speculative as well as Christian thought. The Greek word “Logos” has been used to describe the nature and mode of God’s revelation. It meant “reason” or “word” in classical Greek. As it is used in the New Testament, it means “word” only. Before the advent of Christianity, it is associated with such philosophers as Heraclitus, Plato, and the Stoics. The Stoics viewed the word Logos to mean the primitive power, the never-resting and all pervading fire, the eternal activity of divine world-power which contained within itself the conditions and processes of all things. This was the Logos, or God (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, s.v. “Logos”). This definition allowed for varying kinds of explanations of God. When it was applied to reason, the Stoics meant that one knew God by this means. Epicureans took the word to mean “hearsay” or “report” (Grant 1986, 77). In Hebrew thought there was a parallel movement. While the Greeks viewed the Logos as essentially a doctrine of reason, the Jews viewed it as the outward expression or Word of God. God made His will known by spoken words. Revelation was called, and correctly so, “the Word of the Lord.” To the Jews, the Logos was the mediating agent or personal organ of the Divine Being. The Greeks, however, took Logos to mean the rational principle or impersonal energy by which the world was fashioned or ordered. Philo, the Jewish philosopher of Alexandria, combined these two concepts. The result was an entirely different idea of God. Philo separated the divine energy from its manifestation in the world and introduced subordinate powers. To Philo, the Word was the manifested order in the visible world. God was viewed as the Cause; the Word or Logos was the eldest or firstborn son of God (the second God) who was intermediate between God and man. Philo’s Jewish background made him view the Logos as personal, while his Greek culture tended to make him view the Logos as impersonal. What is important about Philo is that he influenced later Alexandrian theologians to accept this Logos doctrine. One who reads about the Logos of the Apostle John can readily see his works are a polemic against this misleading Greek philosophy (ISBE, s.v. “Logos”).
In ancient philosophy Logos was a common term representing reason as it existed in the consciousness, or mind. Reason was the ruling principle in the world because the world was viewed as the product of reason. Logos was in the world and inseparable from it, not above it, or prior to it. Logos was the unbegotten reason of God indwelling in God from all eternity and inseparable from Him. This Logos doctrine came into Christianity by means of this philosophical background. This was the avenue used to link the Christian message to the whole religious movement of the time. It had a strong appeal to the Greek mind (Garvie, 364-365). In Christ, the Logos became a person. After His work ended, the Son subordinated himself to God, and this personal form of God ceased (Harnack, IV, 65-66).
The Logos doctrine allowed speculation to become acceptable in the creed of the church. It entwined the metaphysics of both Plato and the Stoics. This Logos Christology set up a mystery within the rule of faith that was completely unintelligible to the masses, who now had to rely on theologians to understand, interpret, and apply it. From the third and fourth centuries on, the clergy became the possessors of this independent faith. In the East, in particular, it was represented and expounded as the “revealed faith.” Christianity now began to prevail because it swayed the hearts and minds of the intellectual elite who had already been swayed by the religious and philosophical ethics of the age. What had happened is that a philosophic Christology had developed outside the church and gradually moved to the center of it (Harnack, III, 2-5).
The Alexandrian theologians were absolutely paramount in two things: 1) they transformed heathenism into Christianity, and 2) they transformed Greek philosophy into ecclesiastical philosophy. In the third century they overthrew polytheism but preserved the valuable things in Greek science and culture. Greek science was now put to the service of the Christian apologists. Under the influence of Clement of Alexandria, the entire Hellenic civilization was legitimized and placed under the protection of the church. Origin, the greatest teacher of the Alexandrian school, regarded the speculative concept of ecclesiastical Christianity as the only true light (Harnack, II, 319, 323, 328-335, 339-340). This Neoplatonic philosophy promoted an abstract concept of God, which greatly influenced the mode of thought and institutions of the church. The history of Christian dogma involves the absorption of not only Greek philosophy into the church, but Grammar, Rhetoric, Exegesis, Homilies, the Schools, etc. The church displayed the same philosophy, ethics, speculative theology, and Greek Mysteries (ibid, I, 123, 127-128). The influence of Alexandrian theologians upon the church lasted for 1,000 years. In fact, the writings of Christian writers and Neoplatonists were so similar that it was often doubtful if the writing was composed by a Christian or a Neoplatonist. In the sixth century Augustine applied the best from Platonism and made it a part of church dogma. Even today in the Protestant churches, the mysticism and devotion to piety goes back to Neoplatonic sources (ibid, 348, 357, 359, 361).
At every turn, Christian Alexandria was closely related to pagan thought. For example, the pagan teacher Albinus viewed the mind as linked to God in essence and was deployed from this source like light from the sun. Christian apologists used this same kind of imagery to describe the generation of the Son from the Father, and the Logos from God. Clement of Alexandria identified the supreme God as Mind (Grant, 80, 91). It was through Augustine, though, that Neoplatonism entered into Christian theology (Ency. of Religion and Ethics, s.v. “Platonism”). Plotinus was another eminent pagan teacher. He taught that the living forces of the deity permeate all nature, that the same spirit that sleeps in the stone and dreams in the flower awakes in the human soul. The school of Plotinus was so influential that it eventually absorbed all the pagan schools. Another pagan teacher, Numenius of Apamea, taught that the Demiurge had created the world, but there was a god above the Demiurge. The world was regarded as the third god, so, in effect, he taught a trinity of unequal persons (ibid, 309). The fact is: Greek philosophy contributed to the Trinity doctrine more than anything else. The main factors were: 1) the doctrine of the preexistence of the soul and its application to Christ; 2) the doctrine of the second divine principle called the Mind or Reason as distinct from the Supreme Deity; 3) the third divine principle or the doctrine of the world soul. In the final scheme, the Holy Spirit was assigned the idea of the third principle. These three principles were regarded by the Greek teachers as one divinity. The Church Fathers supported the idea of divine substances, causes, or principles in the Godhead. Trinitarianism was part of an ancient heathen tradition (Forest, 74-80). Much earlier Plato said the world soul was the Logos, and he placed it right behind the first God. He assigned the third position to the Spirit (Grant, 1986, 152-153). What must be realized is that philosophical theology was not a Christian invention, and the rise of Christian theology occurred under strong pressure from the leading contemporary philosophies. The reality of this pagan environment cannot be overlooked (ibid, 169-170). The doctrine of the Trinity resulted from the religious imagery of the time and triune deities were a part of that imagery.
Neither Philo’s philosophy nor Greek thought had much effect on first-generation Christians. Philo’s philosophy did not have much effect until after the beginning of the second century, and only much later did it gain any significance as a standard of Christian theology. The end result was that the literal sense of the Scriptures was excluded, and the allegorical sense was elevated above the literal meaning. The watchword for “scientific theology” was to ascertain the “spiritual meaning” while excluding the literal sense. Philo was the master of this method (Harnack, I, 113-114, 116). Origen’s view was that the Scriptures should be understood in three ways: 1) the historical or fleshly sense; 2) the psychic or moral sense; and 3) the pneumatic or spiritual sense, which is understood by allegory (ibid, II, 347-348). As the church distanced itself from Jewish influence, its theology was more and more influenced by the intellectual influences of the Greek world. The theology of the church had attached itself to foreign concepts (Garvie, 363). Divinities in the form of triads were found in nearly every polytheistic religion. One or another of these triads is the original of the doctrine of the Trinity. In Babylon, there were three persons in the one god which was illustrated by an equilateral triangle, the same way the modern Trinity is sometimes depicted (Hislop, 14, 16-17). A triune god is found in India and Japan. The Trinity is, in fact, found universally in all ancient nations of the world (ibid, 17-18).
The Holy Spirit as a third person originated on Gentile soil. Orthodox Jews could not accept this intrusion into the realm of God’s nature. When a Catholic priest said the Trinity was an exceedingly deep mystery which even the angels and the princes of heaven could not comprehend, the Jewish reply was that it is evident that a person does not believe what he does not know; therefore, the angels do not believe in a Trinity. Cabalisitic Jews (a movement outside the mainstream) speculated that the Father, Son, and Spirit evolved into a new Trinity. Jewish orthodoxy regarded this as a dangerous concept. Christians used the Zohar (a Cabalistic book) to confirm the doctrine of the Trinity (The Jewish Encyclopedia, s.v. “Trinity”).
There is a striking parallel between the development of ecclesiastical dogma and ancient religion. Both duplicated the stages of history from the middle of the first century to the middle of the fifth century. The New Testament completely omits any awareness of a metaphysical nature of God, and some theologians have rightly concluded that all post-biblical doctrine is heresy. Ecclesiastical dogma developed gradually against the background of Stoic and Neoplatonic philosophy. As pointed out at the beginning of this article, the Apostolic Fathers did not attempt to work out any God-Christ relationship with respect to God’s being. Today, technical terms, theological theories, and official statements serve as a set of controls regarding the correct way to conceive the relationship of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Doctrinal statements, while addressing specific points of controversy, often leave other questions unsettled while at the same time creating new problems. Trinitarian doctrine is not capable of expressing the breadth and length and height and depth of God. At best, it is a fragmentary explanation only. To try to define God as three persons has always been a problem which continues to this day (Encyclopedia of Religion, s.v. “Trinity”). Since the doctrine of the Trinity is undiscoverable by reason, it is incapable of proof by reason; there is nothing that can help us comprehend God (ISBE, s.v. “Trinity”).
When all else fails one can always fall back on revelation. This is what the early church utilized. So, Trinitarians are quick to point out that the lack of explicit statements in the Scripture does not prohibit using what has been revealed as grounds for further insight. Since the doctrine of the Trinity is a doctrine of revelation alone, no mind can fully comprehend the mystery of the Godhead (Heresies Exposed, 203). One of the major reasons for developing the doctrine was that it appeared to be the solution for accepting Christ as divine without embracing polytheism, yet, it is admitted that the doctrine must be accepted by faith. The technical explanation is that in the unity of the Trinity each inter-personality is absolutely inseparable from the other two and has inter-consciousness or other-consciousness rather than self-consciousness. The Cappadocian Fathers meant there were three hypostases which shared an identity of essence, not three Gods with a common divinity-a divinity shared with three modes of being (Richardson, 65). How can the layman, or even the clergy, begin to understand that? The question has always been and continues to be, how can three persons exist as one Being? No wonder the church fell back to revelation. The doctrine-a mystery of faith- should be believed as a condition for salvation whether one understands it or not (Garvie, 367).
Bible texts plainly tell us that God’s nature is incomprehensible. “Canst thou by searching find out God? canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection? It is as high as heaven; what canst thou do? deeper than hell; what canst thou know?” (Job 11:7-8). These Scriptures, however, do not deter Trinitarians from attempting to describe God’s nature. They do not rely on the Bible, but on second, third, and fourth century pagan philosophers and Christian theologians heavily tainted with pagan thought. What the Bible does make plain, in both the New and Old Testaments, is that God is a family consisting of the WORD and GOD-two spirit-composed personages forming ONE god.
Trinitarians openly admit that the word Trinity is not found in the Bible and that nowhere does it teach there are three Gods. Some Trinitarians even admit that the word Trinity is offensive and carries baggage. Yet, most Christians have been taught to believe God manifests himself in three persons (Hocking, 67). Trinitarians admit the Trinity is not a biblical doctrine; they say it is an interpretation of what “we find” in the Bible (Knight, 1). They tell us that while it is not possible to fully comprehend the Trinity, it nevertheless is the Bible teaching (Rosenthal, Intro). Also, since there is no acceptable word to take the place of “person,” we must continue to express the personal unity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in that term (Garvie, 476).
Trinitarians tell us the Bible teaches us we can know something about God’s nature, even though we cannot fully understand God. We are told that we should understand God’s nature since we pray to Him and use His name. Therefore, it is not only possible but necessary to have an understanding of the Bible that goes beyond the literal sense. Since the Bible speaks in symbols, we need to understand what the symbols stand for. Some Trinitarians ask, how can we hope to understand the English Bible if we have no knowledge of Hebrew and Greek? Then they go on to assure us we do not need Hebrew and Greek for spiritual growth and development, but we do need it for doctrinal analysis. We need more than a Strong’s Concordance. Certain subjects, like the Trinity, require preparation, not inspiration. Unless one has done enough preparation in the study of the nature of God, he cannot understand God. Trinitarians tell us the reason we have different levels of understanding is because we exercise different levels of preparation. Understanding is not a matter of inspiration, or attitude, or conversion, but of specialization. We are told the study of the Trinity requires patience, the ability to focus on detail, and the skill to dissect the Word of God in order to come to the right judgment. The reader should be reminded that lay members in the second and third centuries were told the same thing by their bishops; they needed to rely on the clergy to give them the understanding of the Scriptures.
Trinitarians advise us that since the laity does not have the expertise to understand doctrine, they need not feel responsible to be able to grasp everything. Their duty is to attend church services or to do whatever else needs to be done. Church members need not feel it is their duty to explain the Trinity. It is a spiritual luxury to understand the nature of God, but not a necessity. So, whether one understands the doctrine of the Trinity depends on whether one is a layman or an expert. Not everyone can understand everything. Such an ability requires proper terminology, the ability to respect details, and to be able to organize in a particular order. When asked how long it will take to fully understand God, Trinitarians tells us that we will always be studying the nature of God, even in the next world. Therefore, if one does not understand the doctrine of the Trinity, he should not be regarded as a heretic.
Trinitarian literature has an answer for everything. For example, Bible students know that nowhere in the gospels did Jesus pray to the Holy Spirit, or said He and the Spirit are one. Trinitarians tell us the reason is because the New Testament is not a book of theology, meaning, to them, that it is not a book of philosophy. Since it is the job of the theologian to spell out the doctrine of the Trinity, Christ would not have taken the time to do so. Trinitarians say the reason there is such a shortage of verses that spell out the three hypostases is because the Bible is not a theology book; it is not a book that methodologically formulates the discipline that examines God. The Bible simply does not concern itself with such things.
Modern Trinitarians point out that when the doctrine of the Trinity was formulated, ideas such as “substance,” “nature,” or “person” were acceptable but are no longer appropriate for our day. We are told that even today much of the language regarding the Trinity is tritheistic (the worship of three gods). Also, that Greek thought used during this time was philosophic and not capable of accurately defining the Incarnation of Christ. But Garvie correctly points out that if God’s nature is anything other than personal, it is impossible to conceive the Incarnation. God must have the capacity of self-limitation in His infinity and absoluteness in order to make the indwelling in human personality possible and real (Garvie, 464-470). Trinitarians insist that since the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God, the duality of the Godhead can be dismissed. Yet, Trinitarians, to this day, admit they cannot answer how God can be one and three at the same time. They tell us the answer cannot be solved by the use of Scripture alone; there must be an analysis of other concepts that are in harmony with the Scriptures. Since the New Testament does not provide any explicit answer, the matter must be regarded as primarily philosophical.
Trinitarians are asked: “If God is one, explain how the Father turned His back on Himself when Christ said, ‘Why hast thou forsaken me?'” Their answer: “This is a hopelessly misunderstood Scripture.” They explain, people think that God really turned His face away from Christ. Christ was actually quoting a Psalm of David. What He was really saying is that He was fulfilling a messianic Scripture. When told that the Bible demonstrates that a union of two persons is called one (Matt. 19:6), Trinitarians tell us Christ was not talking about bodies; He was talking about God’s perception. We are told that to understand the unity of God we must understand Hebrew society. Hebrews did not think in terms of bodies the same way we do. When Jesus said the Father and He were one, He was referring to the agreement and unity of minds among a plurality of beings. The sense, therefore, is one. Another example of Trinitarian thinking is found in 1Timothy 2:5. The text says there is one God. Trinitarians say the text does not show a separation between God and Christ. Neither does it show there is one God and one Mediator. If we count mediators, we count one. If we count Saviors, we count one. None of these alters the fact that there is one God.
Take Isaiah 45:5, 21-22 as another example. Unitarians love this text, but Trinitarians are not impressed by it at all.
The text reads:
I am the LORD, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me. . . . Tell ye, and bring them near; yea, let them take counsel together: who hath declared this from ancient time? who hath told it from that time? have not I the LORD? and there is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me. Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.
Trinitarians argue that anyone who takes this text to mean God is one, and not a Trinity, is taking this Scripture out of context. The Trinity if made up of three hypostases but one God. We are told that once we establish that God is one, all references in the Old Testament refer to the same God, so we waste time if we try to look for more than one God. Trinitarians insist the idea of a duality in the Godhead is contradicted by Isaiah 45:5, in spite of the fact that the Apostle John describes two personalities in the Godhead (John17:11). Trinitarians remind us not to forget the Holy Spirit in this equation because the Holy Spirit is one of the ways God lives. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are modes of being of the one God even though the Scripture does not really explain how this is so. Those who hold to a duality must explain why the Holy Spirit is not divine, yet revealed with the Father and the Son in manifestations recorded in the Scriptures. Trinitarians say Isaiah 6:3 absolutely proves there is a Trinity. Furthermore, this is demonstrated in the New Testament as well, where the Holy Spirit is called God by implication. See, for example Acts 5:3-4. Trinitarians insist the Holy Spirit has eternal life (Heb. 9:14). The Holy Spirit is holy. If any less than God, it could not be holy. Also, the baptismal invocation (Matt. 28:19) proves a threefold designation of God.
Trinitarians take elohim (a uni-plural noun for God) to mean “the powers that be.” Elohim takes a plural verb in various places where it is used. And why not, Trinitarians ask? How else could one translate “the powers that be”? They inform us that translators using elohim, applied it to angels, to God, or to man. Does the text “Let us make man in our image” (Gen. 1:26) refer to a plurality of Gods? Of course not, say Trinitarians. Neither does Genesis 3:22; 11:6-7, or Isaiah 6:8. Trinitarians go back to Genesis 1:26, informing us that immediately following the “Let us” in verse 26 is verse 27, which says God created man in His own image. The singular in verse 27 contradicts the plural in verse 26. Also, the idea that God is plural is contradicted in Deuteronomy 6:4. Trinitarians tell us all this shows that elohim is singular or plural depending on the context. They insist that of itself, elohim does not have a collective sense, such as a family of persons. Perhaps, Trinitarians tell us, it means intensification. Trinitarians insist there is no such thing as a uni-plural word in the Hebrew. Yet, none other than the authoritative Wordbook of the Old Testament, page 93, by Harris, Archer, and Waltke say, “But a better reason can be seen in Scripture itself where, in the very first chapter of Gen, the necessity of a term conveying both the unity of the one God and yet allowing for a plurality of persons is found (Gen 1:2, 26).” Trinitarians tell us the Hebrew language inherited the word elohim from the Canaanites. They contend that Elohim, a plural word, uses a plural form when referring to many and a singular form when it refers to one. And, neither the Old Testament nor the New have any word that can be translated “two Gods.” What the reader should realize is that the above arguments were brought up by the rabbis in the second and third centuries. Also, the reader should be aware of the Trinitarian assertion that the Bible is a work of men, full of contradictions, and not inspired, in order to sustain their argument.
A good way to explain the Trinity, we are told, is to compare it with the President. He is President, husband, and father. He is three things with three functions. So, the Trinity does not refer to separate distinctions but to three hypostases, or ways of being. Trinitarians say, what we are dealing with are three distinctions, not three separations. In the case of the President, if the President were killed all three distinctions would cease to exist. We must recognize that which is beyond man’s comprehension, but we do comprehend God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, yet one.
Trinitarians repudiate the preexistence of Christ. They insist Christ was not an entity before His first coming. They tell us when John wrote that the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, he did not mean that divinity combined with humanity. “Word” should more accurately be translated “utterance.” So, “utterance” was in the beginning. Logically, then, if there was an utterance, there was an utterer. According to Trinitarians, Logos does not mean speaker; it means that which is spoken. So, in the beginning was the utterance; the utterance was with God and the utterance was divine. Since God is one, He is both thinker and thought. As the thinker, He is God; as thought, He is the Son. God’s mind is divine and present everywhere. God is thinker and God is thought in the same way each human being is both thinker and thought. With God it is impossible to be Father, and not thinker, to be Son, and not thought. So, we are told, we are not talking about another person. God is one. Father and Son refer to relationships, not separate persons. Genesis 1:1-3 introduces the Father, the Spirit of God that is the mover, and the Logos (utterer). The Logos has always proceeded from the Father, that is, the Son has always been coming forth from the Father. The question, then, is when did Christ become the begotten Son of God? The answer: He was begotten from eternity. Since Logos means “utterance” from the Father, He was always in existence. Therefore, He was not created and had no beginning. How could Christ, then, proceed from the Father and yet have no beginning? The answer: Who is older, God or His thought? God’s thought is infinite and eternal. Everything that proceeds from God is infinite and eternal. Therefore, the Son can proceed from the Father and have no beginning. Those who may be perplexed by the above explanation should realize the idea is not new. It goes back at least to Tertullian, who said essentially the same thing. Tertullian said that at the moment God chose to reveal himself, He sent forth from himself the Word of creation-the Logos-who came into existence as a real being (Harnack II, 259). This is pure Greek philosophy adapted to explain the preexistence of Christ.
When Trinitarians are asked: If the Holy Spirit is God, why do we not address the Holy Spirit in worship as we do the Father? The answer: We do. When we pray to God, we pray to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit because there is one God. What, then, is the Trinitarian explanation for Psalm 110:1 which states: “The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.” The answer is that if the Son is a reference to a human king, or to a son of David, it does not substantiate two separate God beings. The text is either Messianic or it isn’t. In either case it is a dangerous thing to say the Father has preeminence over Christ. Why? Because there is only one God, so there is no preeminence or authority. If preeminence means one proceeds from the other, then everything proceeds from the Father. The Father is the source, the Son is the Word because He proceeded from the Father. When Christ was on the Earth, He was limited to a body, shape, time, and place. The Father in heaven had no shape, no time, no place. Christ was God in the sense that He was God in origin. When Christ was on the Earth, God was. He was Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. With respect to the Holy Spirit, Trinitarians insist that Job 33:4 and Psalm 104:30 prove a personality. Yet, an examination of these texts demonstrates that the Holy Spirit is creating and life-giving, not at all implying a third person. We will examine the significance of the term Holy Spirit later on in this article.
New Testament passages used by Trinitarians to prove the Trinity include: Acts 5:3-4, Matthew 3:16-17, John 10:30, 1 Corinthians 2:11, Romans 8:9, and John 14:16. An examination of these texts, however, supports the contention by scholars that one must read a Trinity into the texts as a presupposition. The Trinitarian explanation for the reason Paul did not address the Holy Spirit in any of the salutations in his epistles is because there are two types of greetings in the New Testament-Hebrew and Greek. Paul used the Hebrew greeting. But, Paul did refer to the Trinity in 2 Corinthians 13:14, we are told. A look at the text indicates otherwise. Paul makes no mention of a Trinity here. But, if one presupposes a Trinity, one can read it into the text. Paul’s main goal in his letters, we are told, was the unity of the Church; he was not interested in revealing the nature of God. Furthermore, we are told, we should not make the mistake to assume that what the early Church thought is the truth. That is the mistake made today. What the early Church thought settles nothing. Inspiration is important but not in settling matters of doctrine. The answers to doctrinal questions require scholarship and study.
In order to accept the doctrine of the Trinity, many Trinitarians do not take the Scriptures literally. They tell us Bible passages should be taken as metaphors, symbols, parables, figures of speech, etc. Bible students know that while there are metaphors, symbols, parables, and figures of speech, not all Bible passages should be taken this way, and it is reasonably clear where they are so understood. Those who follow a metaphoric or symbolic interpretation of the Bible will spiritualize away the Scriptures. It is clear that parables can have either a literal or nonliteral application. Symbols can have a literal aspect. Trinitarians say that to take the Bible descriptions of God literally, as a means of disclosing His nature, can lead to all kinds of far-fetched questions. For example, would God be incapacitated by loss of His limbs? Trinitarians tell us that the Bible characteristics of God do not suggest a personality. They state it is theologically inaccurate to say that God is a person. Bible writers used these metaphors to express the power and will of God in a meaningful way, not to literally describe His nature. When confronted with the question: If God cannot lie, why would He portray Himself in the form of a man when He is supposedly shapeless? The answer: God is not lying when He represents himself in figures of speech. No one, for example, believes God has a mouth connected with vocal cords that vibrate the air. The term “God spoke” is borrowed from the created order (the Earth, man, etc.) and applied to the “uncreated” order (God). Texts that show body parts, etc., do not prove God has a body, nor do texts that show motion prove God has a shape, or that He talks or moves. Trinitarians are asked: How, then, can anyone be sure he understands the Scriptures? The answer: God does not say one should read the Scriptures literally. To do so makes the Bible full of contradictions. For example, to literally take “God is a consuming fire” would make one believe God is a fire. On the other hand, to say God has hands and feet would make one conclude He is not a consuming fire. If one says God is a consuming fire, he would then conclude God does not have hands and feet. The Scriptures should not be understood at such a superficial level. Nine-tenths of the Hebrew language is figurative, full of figures of speech, Trinitarians say. The reader may recall that Platonic-tainted theologians of the third and fourth centuries went to great lengths to allegorize the Scriptures in order to reject the literal meaning of the Bible. The above illustrates a repetition of the same thing.
Bible manifestations of God in bodily form prove nothing to Trinitarians. Why? Because the Scriptures tell us no one has seen God at any time. Trinitarians go on to tell us that visions, dreams, and other manifestations of God should not be taken literally because this is the only way One who is unfathomable and invisible can be described. The reason the Bible depicts God in a human form is because we can relate to this best. The fact that God is omnipresent does not mean He has a finite body with an omnipresent spirit. If this were the case, it would make God both omnipresent and not omnipresent. Since God is one, He cannot be part limited in space and part unlimited in space. God is in many places at the same time. He is spirit, not a body with a spirit. God’s Spirit is not a portion of His spirit. Spirit is not composed of portions or pieces. Only material things have pieces. Is it not more logical to conclude that God’s Spirit is an extension of His mind? If Christ left heaven to come to the Earth, He has denied His omnipresence. If He is everywhere, He did not have to leave heaven to come to the Earth. Since He is everywhere, He does not need eyes. God can be in heaven and on the cross at the same time. Since God is everywhere, when we move from one portion of the room to another, we are moving in God. If one is seated in a particular place, God is there. He is in every seat; he does not have to move anywhere. All verbs of motion that apply to God in the Bible may have a meaning for us, but do not describe God’s divine status. He is in and throughout our human body. He is in our heart and mind. He is able to read our thoughts because he is inside our heads. He is in and throughout animals. He is in rocks, and stone, and sand. It is for our edification to say that God walks, stands, has a nose, hands, etc. It is impossible for God to change locations because to do so means he was in a place. Changing locations means God would have a body. The reader should realize the above is simply an attempt to define God in the same manner as the pagan world soul.
If the above is true, Trinitarians are asked, how do we pray to such an ethereal being who is everywhere? The answer: We need to distinguish between intellect and emotions. The concept of God is not an emotional concept. God reveals himself in the Bible in spatial terms such as form, shape, clothes, robes, etc., and this is not wrong. Nor is it wrong to think in these terms. These are emotional terms that describe God. But, if we discuss what God is, we must use intellect. There is a difference between an intellectual understanding of God’s nature and an emotional understanding. The difference between intellect and emotion is the word “truth.” How God reveals himself in the Bible may not be the way we imagine Him while praying. When we discuss the nature of God, we are not discussing how God appears in the Bible. We cannot truly picture God in our minds because to do so makes God two or three-dimensional and limited in space. God is not spatial. Even Satan is not limited by time or space; he, too, is omnipresent. To present God in the shape of a man is a terrible thing to do according to Romans 1:23.
God spoke and the whole world came into existence. So, what would He do with hands and fingers. God does not need a voice box to speak. He imparts His thoughts to us directly. We make a mistake if we think God opens His mouth in order to create a sound. God designed our bodies for our kind of existence. So, why would God have such a body. When the Bible says we shall be like Him, it means we will have fulfilled our purpose to be in the image of God in glory. While we are in the image of God, it does not follow that He is in ours.
When Trinitarians are asked: How could God create emotions if He doesn’t have any, the Trinitarian answer is, how can God create bodies if He doesn’t have one? Trinitarians tell us emotions, thinking, and reason are physical. Since God is not physical, these things have nothing to do with Him. The following Bible examples, Trinitarians say, ascribe to God conditions and emotions which apply to men; they do not really apply to Him: “The arm of the Lord,” “the Lord shall rejoice,” “His soul was grieved,” “thou hatest all workers of iniquity,” “God remembered Noah,” “bow down thine ear to me,” “the breath of his nostrils,” “they provoked him to jealousy,” and “he that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh.” This is called condescending, that is, God conveys things in terms we would have conveyed. God condescends to our low estate for our edification. With this approach to the Scriptures, it is not difficult to see how Trinitarians can accept the idea of the Trinity.
Daniel 7:13-14 and 1 Kings 22:19 should not be taken literally, Trinitarians tell us. They are examples of visions and dreams. There is a vast difference, we are told, between two Beings in heaven and the vision of two Beings in heaven. In order to reveal a vision of something in heaven, God has to reveal it in a visible manner we can relate to. The book of Revelation is an example of this. It is a vision of what John saw. So, Revelation 1:12-17 should not be taken literally. It is a symbol. Also, we must realize, that according to Trinitarians, God is not a person. This is because a person has a beginning, and God has no beginning. Dictionaries give the meaning of hypostasis as a person, but dictionaries give usage, not definitions. To say God is a person is to say God is a three-person person. To take the Bible literally would mean Christ is a lamb, that He has seven stars in His hand, and a sword in His mouth. All such references are symbolic. Take Genesis 1:26 as an example. Trinitarians tell us the word “image” in this text cannot refer to a literal shape and form of God. Human beings cannot, as a whole, be in God’s image as we are only a bodily representation of God’s bodilessness. The idea that God made man in His image should not be taken literally. The words “image” and “likeness” are intended to convey intensity, not different meanings. Even the word “us” in this text should not be taken literally. Jewish monotheism forbids this interpretation. All interpretations that suggest a plurality of God are false. When the Bible uses the plural, it refers to the plural of majesty, not to the plurality of God./P>
Notice the similarity between Trinitarians and Jewish Cabalists (followers of Jewish esoteric or mysterious doctrine). Cabalists believe the world flows from the godhead. The world is a manifestation of the godhead. The godhead fills all and is in all. God contains and transcends all things and all qualities-good and evil, limitless and limited, infinite and finite, unity and variety, spirit and matter, unknowable and knowable, all which are united in the great Whole which is the godhead. The god of the Cabala is the En-Sof, the hidden godhead, unknown and unknowable. It cannot be defined; It can be called “Nothing” because no qualities can be assigned to it, even though it is in everything (Encyclopedia of the Unexplained, edited by Richard Cavendish, s.v. “Cabala”).
Some Trinitarians are so arrogant about their beliefs, they do not hesitate to define any aspect of God. Even the definition of “spirit body” must be defined. They tell us “spirit body” is a contradiction of terms. This is because spirit has no body. Even though Paul uses “spiritual body” in 1 Corinthians 15, it should be understood to mean the counterpart of the “natural body.” One cannot give a spirit form and shape. Spirit means “without body.” A “body” requires a shape and substance. Trinitarians assure us that what Paul is discussing in 1 Corinthians 15 is not the composition of the body, but the origin. When Paul speaks of the “image of the heavenly,” we must not think of a physical image. What Paul meant was that man will be glorified, changed, no longer in space, no longer with height or breadth, and no longer with a body. Spiritual body refers to the state we will be in when we are glorified. Christ does not have a body. If He did He would be in one location. Angels should not be called “spirit beings.” They do not require space because they are not in space. They are like thoughts which are also spiritual but not in space. Thoughts are immortal; they cannot die. (Let the reader refer to Psalm 146:3-4.) The glorified saints will be omnipresent like God and will not be in time and space. Trinitarians tell us various Scriptures that show God has no form are: Psalm 139, John 4:24, Colossians 1:15, 1 Timothy 1:17, and Hebrews 11:27.
Some Trinitarians like to wax eloquent in areas which no man can possibly understand. Take the will of man for example. Trinitarians tell us that the human will, thoughts, and all spiritual things do not perish. Only human beings die, not their wills. Christ died, but not His will. He was not dead for three days because God cannot die. When we receive the Holy Spirit, we actually receive the will of God. If God removed His will, everything would disappear. We would perish because we would not be around to perish. If God’s will would change, with respect to existence, we would not exist anymore. We would not die; we would just cease to exist. Can God do away with the angels? Yes, He can. All He has to do is to will them out of existence.
When Trinitarians attempt to describe the nature of God, they are accused of blasphemy, speculation, liberalism, secularism, and indulging in metaphysical diatribes. All of these charges are true. Those who attempt to describe the nature of God, as we have seen in the above paragraphs, have no right to even claim to worship God. Following the example of third and fourth century Platonists, they are worshiping Greek philosophy. The entire Trinitarian attempt to describe the nature of God has its origin in paganism. All these philosophic notions are hostile to God and His Word. The Bible does not reveal what Greek philosophy assumes regarding the nature of God. The fact is: God’s nature, as far as men need to understand, is revealed in the Old Testament. A look at what we have just read above demonstrates that Trinitarian theology refuses to accept the literal meaning of the Scriptures and views the Bible as parables, symbols, metaphors, and figures of speech. Most of the ideas advocated by Trinitarians are so far-fetched, so really unknown, that what is stated is pure nonsense. Greek speculation cannot take the place of the inspired Word of God. True servants of God do not attempt to invalidate God’s Word by speculative nonsense and absurd word games.
A Trinity in the Bible?
The historical record shows that the doctrine of the Trinity was developed by Platonic-tainted theologians during the third and fourth centuries. Trinitarian writers candidly admit the teaching does not come from the Bible. Yet, Trinitarians persist in their view that the Bible describes a unity because of the usage of the plural form when referring to God. Trinitarians refer to Deuteronomy 6:4 which reads: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD.” They note correctly that the Hebrew word for “one” is echad, which is a compound-unity word signifying one, but made up of several entitities. The following texts illustrate this usage of echad: Genesis 1:5; 2:24, Numbers 13:23, and Jeremiah 32:38-39. In Genesis 1:5, both the evening and the morning make up one day. In Genesis 2:24, both Adam and Eve make one flesh. In Numbers 13:23, one cluster of grapes is made up of many individual grapes. In Jeremiah 32:38-39, all the people have one heart. In contrast is the Hebrew word yachid used in Genesis 22:2 which means absolute oneness and is translated “only.” See Proverbs 4:3, Psalm 22:20, Judges 11:34, Jeremiah 6:26, Amos 8:10, and Zechariah 12:10 to see this usage. Echad indeed does show God as a plurality in Deuteronomy 6:4. Also, elohim, the name often used for God in the Old Testament, is in the plural. Trinitarians tell us God consistently uses the plural form to describe His unity. The question they fail to answer, however is, could it be that God consistently uses the plural form to describe His plurality?
Trinitarians refer to Proverbs 30:4 and Psalm 2:2. These texts show a plurality, but a plurality of two, a fact overlooked by Trinitarians. Other examples are Isaiah 63:8-16 where the Father and the Holy Spirit are mentioned. In Genesis 1:2, Psalm 51:11, and Zechariah 7:8-13, the Spirit is also mentioned. Trinitarians believe these texts demonstrate the unity of God and that the Holy Spirit is not merely an emanation, but one that bears responsibility. Other texts referred to which demonstrate a unity include Psalm 45:6-7; 110:1, and Genesis 18:1; 19:24. But, Trinitarians insist these texts do not indicate polytheism, and to charge them with such a belief is baseless. They tell us that without an understanding of the triunity, one would be at a loss to explain much of the Old Testament (Rosenthal, 33-36, 56). One of the most convincing texts for Trinitarians is Isaiah 48:12, 16, which supposedly proves a Trinity. “Hearken unto me, O Jacob and Israel, my called; I am he; I am the first, I also am the last. . . . Come ye near unto me, hear ye this; I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; from the time that it was, there am I: and now the Lord GOD, and his Spirit, hath sent me.” The speaker in verse 12 is God. The speaker is also God in verse 16, but the “me” in verse 16 refers back the speaker in verses 12 and 16. Thus, the “he” is sent by His Lord God and His Spirit. Based on this text and Isaiah 61:1 and 11:1-2, Trinitarians tell us a sort of plurality is implied in the Old Testament texts, but is explicitly taught in the New Testament. For the present, however, the Trinity is regarded as an “absolute mystery, wholly indemonstrable, neither discovered nor formulated by reason (Welch, 103-104).
To “prove” Bible support for the doctrine, Trinitarian Cyrus Richardson tells us, the New Testament relates the symbols of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Richardson, 28). We are told there are 25 places where the Holy Spirit is referred to by a pronoun (Davies, 217). The supposed proof of the personality of the Holy Spirit is seen in Genesis 1:2; 6:3, Job 33:4, John 15:26; 16:13, Acts 15:28, and Revelation 22:17. An examination of the texts makes it clear one would have to read them with the presupposed notion that the Holy Spirit exists as a third person. We are told nine different verb forms prove the personality of the Holy Spirit. These are: abides, dwells, teaches, testifies, guides, speaks, hears, shows, reproves, and glorifies. Also, nine distinct gifts prove the personality of the Holy Spirit. These are: wisdom, knowledge, faith, gifts of healing, working of miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits, tongues, and interpretations of tongues. In 1 Corinthians 12:6-7 we have the proof, Trinitarians tell us, that the Holy Spirit is distinct from the Father and the Son. This is seen also in Ephesians 2:18, 1 Peter 1:2, and Acts 5:32. Also, it is insisted that the Holy Spirit is a deity which can be seen in Acts 5:3-4 where the Holy Spirit is called God. 1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 6:19 also “proves” the Holy Spirt is God. Trinitarians refer to Hebrews 9:8 and say that the Holy Spirit was the author of the entire Mosaic ritual. They tell us this proves a personality because only a person can be an author. Three divine persons are proven by Luke 3:21-22; 4:18, John 16:13, Acts 20:27-28, Romans 8:9, 1 Corinthians 12:3-6, Ephesians 2:18-22; 4:4-6, 1 Peter1:2, and by Numbers 6:23-26, Matthew 28:19, and 2 Corinthians 13:14 (Davies, 195-226, 223-233). One who wishes to examine these texts will find that the “proof” rests in the preconceived notion that the Holy Spirit has a personality and that there is a threesome in the Godhead. Trinitarians also point out various texts that show the procession of the Holy Spirit from both the Father and the Son. But they admit they know no more about the procession of the Holy Spirit than they do the generation of the Son, and that they know nothing beyond the affirmation of the facts (Davies, 194-195).
Trinitarians find a threesome in the unity of God in the most extraordinary places. Take, for example, when the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus in the form of a dove, and a voice was heard from heaven. Trinitarians tells us they see the threefold revelation in the form of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The same thing is seen with the heavenly announcement regarding Immanuel. Here we have the Father in heaven, Jesus in Mary’s womb, and the influence of the Holy Spirit. Trinitarians do admit that in those passages where the Holy Spirit is “poured out,” “shed forth,” or “come down,” the intended meaning sometimes refers to gifts and graces from God. Furthermore, they admit that there are few actual verses that positively show and unanswerably establish the personality of the Holy Spirit (Davies, 215). When Trinitarians are told that the Greek word for “spirit” is neuter, their answer is that deity is without sex and does not exist under such limitations (ibid, 215-216). Davies argues, that the mode of the Spirit’s subsistence in the Trinity proves his personality and that many passages are wholly unintelligible and even absurd unless the Spirit is a person. He admits that personification of any kind in some passages where the Holy Spirit is mentioned is impossible, but that masculine pronouns prove the Holy Spirit is a person (ibid, 218-219).
It is inconceivable to Trinitarians that the Old Testament says nothing about the Trinity. Many authorities admit, however, that those who depend upon the Old Testament for any proof of the Trinity find none. Those who already believe in the Trinity often see underlying suggestions of it in the Old Testament. The same is true in the New Testament. The doctrine of the Trinity is built upon assumption; it is found in the New Testament in the form of allusion rather than any express teaching. The nearest text to any direct statement is Matthew 28:19-20. Trinitarian consciousness is seen in 2 Corinthians 13:14, a text used to prove the Trinity. We are told in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia that there is great difficulty in attempting to understand how writers of the New Testament conceived of three related Persons; that even Matthew 28:19 fails to preserve the allusions carefully. Furthermore, our confidence is further shaken when we observe the implications of the mutual relations of the Persons which, while derived from the designations as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, do not lie in them as commonly assumed (ISBE, s.v. “Trinity”). The fact is: The Greek attempt to understand the activity of God was the result of the analysis of abstract thought. Men might as well admit, Richardson tells us, that there is no way the absolute transcendence of God and His relatedness can be brought into a coherent unity. All we can say is that God is both and leave it alone (Richardson, 43). Other theologians maintain that it is impossible to express the mutual relations of three hypostases in one substance by any adequate term human language can supply (McClintock and Strong, s.v. “Personality”). The doctrine of the Trinity was the result of an irreconcilable argument between Jewish and Christian monotheism. It was believed the Jews had the firm conviction that there could not be the slightest hint of a multiplicity of Gods. And that they utterly rejected the fact that Jesus, who was God, had revealed the Father, who was God. For the Christians the dilemma was resolved by making the three one. Augustine had argued that if even one in the Trinity was a relationship rather than a person, the representation of three Persons would be dissolved into a mist (Bowie, 127-128). To repeat, the doctrine of the Trinity does not belong to the fundamental beliefs of the Christian faith and is not found in any singular New Testament passage. During the early second century most theologians regarded the Holy Spirit to be a substance emanating from the Father and the Son (McClintock and Strong, s.v. “Trinity”). Even Justin had this view, regarding the Holy Spirit as the substance of all the gracious gifts proceeding from the Father (Neander, I, 608-609). Church Fathers used the same tools as the pagan philosophers. The end result was that the concepts that were developed differed radically from the Scriptures. Trinitarian doctrine ended up as mystical theology (Pittenger, 31-34, 37).
Church Fathers had differing ideas as to the nature and function of the Holy Spirit. As we have seen, it took several centuries before the Holy Spirit was formally defined, as philosophical theologians became more and more convinced that it was necessary to assume there were three in the Godhead. During the first 30 years of the Arian controversy, the Holy Spirit was scarcely mentioned. Even at the Nicene Council the doctrine of the Holy Spirit was expressed in very vague and general terms. Even as late as AD 380 Gregory Nazianzen said that some theologians consider the Holy Spirit to be a certain mode of the divine agency; others regard it as a creature of God; others apply it to God himself. Others had no opinion because the Holy Scriptures had not explained this point. For some strange reason, there was a greater fear of introducing two gods than three. Even though the question of the Holy Spirit in the divinity was for some period of time controversial, it eventually came to be believed. Where it had been fashionable to call the Father the only true God, it now became fashionable to say the Trinity was one God (Forrest, 40-41). One thing is certain however: The apostles would never have thought in terms of three divine Persons whose relationships and unity were unable to be understood.
The Untold Facts About Monotheism
The example of Hellenic Judaism during the first century was Philo Judaeus. His voluminous works point out a kind of Judaism far removed from the assumed orthodoxy of Palestine. Since many of the rabbinic writings are dated much later than the first century, what is now being questioned, as never before, is the nature of supposed Palestinian Judaism. Philo’s Judaism coincides with the beginnings of Christianity and is remarkable for the fact it contained a second God-the Logos! It is asked, how could Philo have altered the fundamental monotheism of Judaism and remained a leader and spokesman for the Jewish community? Or, on the other hand, do his writings reflect the view of a substantial Jewish community which was not monotheistic in the accepted sense of the word? (Barker, 114). The writings of Philo are the first significant nonrabbinic evidence regarding two Gods, or “two powers.” Philo actually used the term “two Gods,” which in rabbinic thought meant the same as “two powers.” Because of the many examples in the Bible where human characteristics are attributed to God, Philo discussed the concept of a second Deity. While he felt it improper to refer to God in manlike terms, he felt this tool was the way to teach the common people. Since God had chosen to reveal himself as the Logos, Philo held that the Logos may be called God. The fact is: There were traditions of a “second God” present in Judaism as early as the time of Philo (20 BC-AD 54). Philo wrote about a series of traditions which involved the divinity of a principal angelic figure who was God’s helper in Creation. He regarded the Bible descriptions of the “angel of YHWH” as references to the Logos-one of the principal powers of God. Philo did not think he had violated the monotheistic basis of his religion when he used the term “second God” to describe the Logos. One reason, it is believed, was that during this period of time the violation of the canons of monotheism was partly a matter of individual opinion (Segal, 159-164, 172-173, 182-183).
Philo regarded the Logos as God’s administrator and the chief steward of the world. What this points out is that the various roles of the figures described as God’s chief Agent reflect an idea that was widely interpreted across a wide spectrum of ancient Judaism. The fact that Jesus was assigned as God’s chief Agent indicates that the idea was not a modification of Jewish monotheism (Hurtado, 20-21). Philo’s concept of a second God appears to be a combination of Platonic ideas of divine intermediation and the Stoic world spirit. In this scheme the Logos could be hypostatized and thus viewed as a separate agent and called God (Segal, 23). Philo, at times, represented the Logos as an independent personal being-a second God-and at other times as an aspect of divine activity (Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th ed., s.v. “Logos”). While those who shared Philo’s ideas could be charged with believing in “two powers in heaven,” it is quite possible that this view had an exegetical tradition that was shared by many other Jews (Segal, 23-24). In Hellenic Judaism the Logos was assumed to be a human figure (ibid, 185). Philo did not draw his theology from a mixture of Hellenized Judaism and Greek philosophy; rather, he drew it from the most ancient traditions of Judaism (Barker, 48). Philo defined the second God quite clearly when he wrote: “For nothing mortal can be made in the likeness of the Most High God and Father of the Universe but (only) in that of a second God, who is His Logos” (quoted in Barker, 116).
Philo gave evidence to the pervasiveness and antiquity of God’s appearance in different aspects. And he was not alone in interpreting the different names of God for the purpose of signifying different figures and attributes. The rabbis did the same thing. The fact is: Many parts of the Jewish community in varying places and at different times in their history used a tradition that later rabbis labeled as heretical. It is not possible to determine when rabbinical opposition to the doctrine began. It is almost impossible to determine what the rabbinical traditions were before AD 200, much less before AD 70, when the rabbis assumed control of the Jewish community. Rabbinical traditions, as they now exist, were written after this time period. Philo designated the Logos in the following terms: King, Shepherd, High Priest, Covenant, Rider on the Divine Chariot, Archangel, and Firstborn Son. These appellations seem to have come from ancient Jewish beliefs and were adapted to Greek thinking. One fact is certain: What was said about the Logos is very close to what was said about the YHWH (the Name). What is clear is that Philo was presenting Judaism, not some vague form of syncretism. What should be noted is that Philo could not have invented a second God and still retained his credibility as a Jewish philosopher. For Philo, the divine Logos was the Angel of Yahweh, just as it was for his native Judaism. It was later that the rabbis went to great lengths to fight any notion of a second Deity. The questions that should be asked are: Did Christians copy Philo, or did they share a similar belief that was normal for the time? Or did the disagreement that developed between Judaism and Christian orthodoxy signify how far Judaism had been altered? (Barker, 116-118, 120).
Philo referred to Genesis 28:16 to illustrate his view that there was more than one God. The account is of Jacob’s dream at Bethel. Philo felt the rendering should be, “I am the God that appeared to thee in the place of God.” The first God refers to the true God, while the second God refers to other heavenly beings. Philo was not the only Jew who believed in a second divine Being. The Targums (paraphrases from Aramaic to Hebrew), while impossible to date, express several ways of referring to the divinity, and the most common way of denoting YHWH was the word Memra. Students of rabbinic Judaism know this is no reference to a hypostasis. The Targums fail to prove that rabbinic Judaism was the unchanged tradition from pre-Christian times. They also fail to prove that the fundamental monotheism of the first century AD was expressed in them. This is because there is no real evidence that can date the Targums. The earliest date that can be placed on them is between AD 700 and 900. This is unsuitable evidence for determining any first century documents. There is no concrete evidence that the Targums, as they now exist, were written at an early date. What the Targums do reveal is that those who translated them assumed that ordinary Jews of the synagogues had basically the same beliefs as Philo and used the same imagery to express them. Mainstream rabbinic Judaism, now reflected in the Targums, may not have been the people to whom they were originally addressed. Originally intended as a translation and interpretation, they are now impenetrable (Barker, 135, 139, 145-146, 148).
After the Jews returned from their Babylonian captivity (595-515 BC), they began to cleanse their religion from both idolatry and polytheism. They did this by affirming the unity of God and His spirituality. They purged the visible manifestations of God. The end result was that the incomprehensibility and remoteness of God made Him difficult to find. This approach was particularly apparent in Alexandria where Jewish thinkers had absorbed Platonic philosophy through Philo, who like the Greeks, conceived of God as a pure Being who could not come into contact with the physical world He had created. His action and power were manifested by “His Powers,” “His Logos,” “His Wisdom,” which, as hypostatized attributes, became vice-regents on the Earth. Angels were regarded as intermediaries. What happened was that Hebrew monotheism had become unstable because the problem of the One and Many could not be solved by merely separating them (ISBE, s.v. “God”). Philo gave special authority to a second angelic manifestation of God which he affirmed was the second power. The rabbis fought any attempt to identify a second figure, either in the Pentateuch or Daniel, as quasi-divine or as an independent angelic being. This was the case with Daniel, chapter seven, which can certainly allow for a two-power interpretation (Segal, 49-52). What happened later does not reflect what was taking place in the first century. Philo shows beyond any doubt that Judaism in the first century of the Christian era acknowledged a second God, and the roles and functions of that God were exactly the same as the ancient Yahweh (Barker, 131-132).
Peter Hayman in an article entitled, “Monotheism-a Misused Word in Jewish Studies,” wrote that monotheism is indeed a misused word in Jewish studies, and that it is inappropriate to use the term monotheism to describe the Jewish idea of God. Hayman points out that while God is the sole object of worship, He is not the only divine Being. There is always a prominent number two in the hierarchy to whom Israel relates, a pattern which is inherited from the Bible. Hardly any variety of Judaism has been able to manage with a single divine entity. The result has been that many Jews are confused, especially regarding the identity of the second divine Being. Hayman tells us that if monotheism appears to be an inappropriate term to describe Jewish beliefs in God before the Middle Ages, what should the proper term be? The answer: Perhaps cooperative dualism would be better. The rabbinic term “two powers in heaven,” is clearly seen in Daniel by the Ancient of Days and the Son of man. According to Hayman, the Jewish belief about God from the Exile to the Middle Ages was that most varieties of Judaism are marked by a dualistic pattern in which two divine entities are presupposed. One is the Supreme Creator, the other is His Prime Minister, who runs the show, or at least provides the point of contact between God and humanity. Hayman says that even in rabbinic literature, where there is one divine dominant figure, it is doubtful the picture of God is really unitary at all. Furthermore, Jewish angelology portrays anything but a monotheistic religion. Recent research casts a dark shadow over the supposed monotheism of Judaism (Hayman, 2, 10-11, 15).
Literature of post-exilic Judaism has many references to various heavenly figures who participated in some way in God’s rule on the Earth and in His plan of redemption. These figures can be called in some manner the “divine agency.” They are second in rank only to God Himself. A wide spectrum of Jewish parties held to this concept-that there existed a chief Agent who was above all others. The fact is: The concept of divine agency did not reflect a major mutation from ancient Jewish monotheism. It was not until the second century AD that some Jewish heretics were accused of going too far with this concept of God’s chief Agent and were accused of believing in “two powers” in heaven (Hurtado, 17-19). Extra-biblical writings contain examples of two powers in heaven. One rabbi, Rabbi Ishmael, called an angelic prince Panion. Panion shared God’s name and served at his throne. A work entitled Hekhalot Rabbati described a journey to the gate of the seventh palace where the chief guard is Anafiel, an exalted being comparable to the Creator. Another extra-biblical work, The Visions of Ezekiel, described a mysterious prince who was semi-divine and identified with the God in Daniel seven. His name was like God’s. Both in Visions and Hekhalot are descriptions which attribute deity to “the ancient of days,” who bore some of God’s titles, yet was distinct from God. Metaton was another deity who was regarded as a second God and was sometimes referred to as the “Lessor Yahweh.” There was a similarity between Arianism and Jewish extra-biblical writings as both regarded Christ as a creature promoted to divinity. The Metaton of the Hekhalot turns out to resemble the Arian Christ (Halperin, 373, 393, 410, 421, 453).
While Jewish monotheism is the acceptable view of God since post-exilic times, it is quite possible that the Shema (the term applied to Deuteronomy 6:4), originated during the persecutions of Antiochus Epiphanes (c. 175 BC). We will take a closer look at the Shema later. What can clearly be seen is that both inside and outside the rabbinic community the belief in a principal angelic being did not seem to be a problem. Rather, the problem was the identity, title, or function of this second figure (Segal, 187). This same view can be seen in the Dead Sea Scrolls which indicate that among all the sects of Judaism these ideas were more commonly believed than orthodox rabbinic literature shows (ibid, 20, 22). Rabbi Akiba identified the “son of man” with the Davidic Messiah, and he was not the only one who did this. He supposedly changed his view to that of aspects, rather than a person, but it is believed additions were made to his writings in order to support the orthodox view. Other groups assigned messiahship to the second figure of Daniel (ibid, 49). The extra-biblical writings of Rabbi Ishmael show that God manifested himself in two ways in the Bible, but the orthodox Jews condemned this concept as dangerous. Their argument was that the fiery stream that issued forth in Daniel 7:10 came from Him. Therefore, there is only one personage, but two manifestations (ibid, 38, 40).
What needs to be called to the reader’s attention is that the majority of the background studies used by the scholars to support their views have been shown to belong to a period two or three centuries after the time of Christ. What this demonstrates is that pre-Christian Judaism was not monotheistic in the sense that we use the word. In the manifestation of Yahweh, the Son of God, Jesus was acknowledged as the Messiah. He was called the Lord. In the New Testament the Greek word kurios (Lord) was the translation from the Hebrew Yahweh (Barker, 2-5). Judaism was by no means a unified religion (Hurtado, 39). What the rabbis called heretical in the second century was believed by many of the sectaries during the first century. So, the annoying question continues to be: Where and when did these traditions become heretical? The first rabbinic charges against the “two powers” occurred in the second century; it was during this time that the rabbis took control of Judaism. In the first century there is no way to be sure that any of the two power beliefs would have been called heretical, or even if there had been a central authority to define it (Segal, 201, 3). What is known is that the major arguments against the “two power heresy” were laid down during the tannaitic period (rabbis who were extant up to AD 300). The successors to the tannaim were the amoraim (third through sixth centuries AD). The amoraim accepted these arguments and expanded them. Not until some time after the second Jewish war (AD 135), when rabbinic authority was consolidated at Yavneh, were the two power sectaries excluded from the Jewish community. These sectaries were accused of compromising monotheism. The chief characteristic of the rabbinic movement was its strict adherence to monotheism. Yavneh had become the theological center of Judaism because various Jewish sects no longer regarded Jerusalem as prominent. Rabbinic polemics against the “two powers” cannot be dated earlier than the time of Ishmael and Akiba, that is, about the end of the first quarter of the second century. The biggest problem in defining this so-called heresy is being able to accurately date the rabbinic traditions that opposed it. The basic heresy was the belief that there was a principal angel in heaven equivalent to God. The major problem with rabbinic writings is that they were so divergent that some scholars believe there was no concept of orthodoxy in rabbinic Judaism. Furthermore, there is no consensus as to when rabbinic Judaism became orthodox. The rabbis themselves have assumed their interpretation of Judaism was always orthodox . Excommunication does not seem to have been formalized during the first and second centuries, but by the time the Mishnah was codified, it was put to practice (AD 200). At this time all the Jewish sectaries were labeled heretical. Even at the time of the destruction of the Temple there were twenty-four different kinds of heretics. What this demonstrates is that there were many more sects among the Jews than commonly believed (Segal, 121, 264, 59, x., 5-7, 16).
One of the main issues that separated Christianity from Judaism was the “two powers” controversy. The belief was placed in a heretical category reasonably early. But, even then there were rabbinic “heretics” who believed in two powers in heaven (Segal, ix). The main difference between Christians and Jews is that the Jews did not believe that the Messiah had already appeared. Christians had no difficulty accepting two Deities. The real point of dispute between Christians and Jews was whether or not Jesus was the second God (Barker, 207). The rabbis attempted to put down a growing number of sectaries who upheld a binitarian view (the worship of two Gods). As a counter measure, the rabbis began to apply the two power concept to attributes-such things as mercy and justice-rather than to separate beings. They attached justice and mercy to the name in order to oppose the argument of two Gods (Segal, 147, 150, 46). Hayman refers to a work entitled, The Faces of the Chariot, by David Halperin, who reveals the rabbinic distress that took place because much of the Hebrew Bible seemed to be too close to polytheism, that is, it revealed a duality in the Godhead. The rabbis attempted to keep this information away from the people. So, they split God up into two aspects-Justice and Mercy. The rabbis could not deny that two names were associated with God, so attributes were applied to God’s manifestations. The end result was a monotheism in theory but not in function (Hayman, 13-14).
Rabbinical arguments are echoed in later Trinitarian and Unitarian debates-against each other and against Binitarians. All the groups opposed to the rabbis had a real knowledge of the Hebrew Scriptures and could be regarded as rabbinic sectaries, or Jewish heretics (Segal, 89, 91). Daniel seven was central to the belief in “two powers,” and the rabbinic counter was that the repetition of the divine name emphasized God’s unity, not two beings. There was alarm among the rabbis that the divine name YHWH was being used to define the second divine Being. Therefore, they argued that YHWH should be understood as the merciful aspect of God’s providence (ibid, 35, 37, 180-181). The rabbis took one of the YHWHs in Genesis 19:24 to mean Gabriel, and applied the other one to Israel’s true God. They took the plural form of God and applied it to the plural of majesty in the heavenly court. There were some formidable Scriptures the rabbis had to contend with; Genesis 35:5, and 7, for example, because of the plural form. The rabbis generally referred to the singular verb following the plural form of God in order to make God one. Second Samuel 7:23 presented an immense problem for the rabbis because of the plural form. In spite of their reasoning, they made room for understanding a divine manifestation other than God, as long as that manifestation fit within their orthodoxy. This whole idea that the singular verb counteracts the dangerous view of the divine plural did not develop as an argument until the amoraic period. But the simple expedient of referring to the singular after the plural name of God was really insufficient. The Scriptures were more complex than that. Many of the rabbinic traditions are later elaborations, probably not added until the medieval period (ibid, 130-131, 54).
The Christian view of the Messiah was that He was a heavenly Being-one of the Godhead. Jewish monotheism, on the other hand, forbade thinking of the Messiah as anything other than a human being (Richardson, 42). This same notion is seen in Unitarianism today. The controversy between the rabbis and those they considered heretics was due to the rise in Christianity. Why this is not understood today is because of the perverted ideas of Christian scholars who refuse to believe the claims of the first Christians. The earliest Christian beliefs should not be based on the monotheism of rabbinic orthodoxy (Barker, 158). Some Trinitarians, for example, tell us that we should not try to understand church doctrine based on the earliest Christians. The fact is: There are indications that Jewish monotheism accommodated reverence for and interest in heavenly figures like chief angels and exalted patriarchs, as well as personified attributes or powers of God. This understanding makes it plain how Christians could accept the risen Jesus as exalted while still believing in one God. The incorrectly understood and rigid view of monotheism has made it difficult to understand how Christians could so easily accept Christ as God. We can now discard the foolish fancy of New Testament scholarship which asserts that the title “son of man” was an apocalyptic figure in end-of-the-world eschatology (Hurtado, 8). The notion that Christians viewed Christ in an eschatological sense, that is, One who would bring future salvation, must be given a decent burial (ibid, 109-110). Christianity grew rapidly in the first century because of the Jewish belief in two Gods. Jesus was regarded as the Yahweh/Michael/Gabriel pattern and the number two figure in the Godhead (Hayman, 14).
Scholars, not willing to accept the fact that early Christianity was binitarian in nature, have tried to explain that the worship of Jesus resulted from Greco-Roman paganism. With respect to the information now available, this view is untenable (Hurtado, 3). How early in the first century were Christians acknowledging Jesus as Lord, and as the Son of God? If it can be proven this was not done by the first Christians, then the idea that the worship of Christ had its roots in paganism could be substantiated. If the titles and worship given to Jesus were a part of the earliest Palestinian tradition, then the answer to the above question can be found only in a Jewish setting. Christians who had been educated in the monotheistic view did not abandon monotheism as such. Rather, they established a new means of conceiving God. For example, “Lord” (kurios) in Romans 10:9-13 quoted from Joel 2:32 (Yahweh) was used to show the divinity of Christ. The preexistence of Christ is clearly implied in such New Testament passages as 2 Corinthians 8:9, Philippians 2:6, Colossians 1:15, and Titus 2:13. So, how did monotheistic Jews worship Christ and what did they mean by “Son of God,” “Messiah,” and “Lord”? Scholars assumed these titles came from Greek mythology because Jewish monotheism would have never permitted them to be used. So, “Messiah” was viewed as no more than a nationalistic leader who was willing to rebel against Rome. “Lord” was viewed as a courtesy title which Greek Christians confused with the YHWH. Jesus actual “divinity” and worship was, therefore, no more than that given local Greek gods. The primary interest for New Testament scholars was to emphasize the “humanity” of Jesus (Barker, 1).
Early Christian worship was decidedly binitarian, and the risen Christ was given prominence alongside of God. But the Jewish “two powers” tradition did not of itself create the binitarian devotion that swept the early Christian Church. The fact is: Jesus’ ministry provoked a crises that involved His validity as one sent from God! The chief Agent of the Christians became the object of worship reserved for God alone! (Hurtado, 114-115, 117). Anyone reading the gospels will quickly find that Jesus was viewed as more than a human. The Old Testament speaks for itself and does not support the notion that there is only one God with several different names (Barker, 228). Romans 1:3-4 is one of the first examples that the risen Christ had been God’s chief Agent. Another example is 1 Corinthians 15:20-28. Philippians 2:5-11 should be especially noted because this text is unparalleled in its view of divine agents (Hurtado, 94-97). “Christ” and “Messiah” were applied by these early Christians to one holding heavenly and divine status. “Lord,” to the Christians implied far more than what it had meant in the ancient world. “Son of God” was the name for YHWH. The worship of Christ by the Christians provided the most important context for the use of the Christological titles and concepts ( ibid, 13). The Apostle Paul could distinguish between God and the Lord because of a well-established belief. If Paul understood Deuteronomy 6:4, as it is interpreted today, his statement in 1 Corinthians 8:6 would be a total contradiction (Barker, 192-193). Harnack tells us the entire ancient church believed that Melchizedek was a manifestation of the true Son of God (Harnack III, 27). Christians believed that the texts about Yahweh were about Jesus. Rabbinic opposition was extremely ferocious because the threat to their monotheistic orthodoxy was coming from within. This can be understood only in the light that Christians were proclaiming Christ to be a manifestation of Yahweh (Barker, 231).
The Shema (Deut. 6:4) was profoundly adapted, or modified, by Christians as seen by 1 Corinthians 8:4-6. This mutation of monotheism made Jesus the object of devotion for a people that considered itself to be firmly committed to monotheism. There is not a hint that the worship of Christ in the churches that the Apostle Paul established represented any kind of major innovation or that the Palestinian Christians objected to it (Hurtado, 97-100, 107). The Roman jurist and author, Pliny, wrote that the Christians sang hymns to Christ as God (Barker, 216). It was not until Christianity tried to fit the Holy Spirit into the picture that there was a major deviation from the well-established pattern found in Judaism (Hayman, 15). The fact is: Behind all the debates and councils involved in the framing of the Creeds was the binitarian practice of generations of Christians who reverenced Christ along with God. This amounted to a mutation of monotheism (Hurtado, 128). It was later in the first century that the Jewish religious leaders rejected the worship of Jesus as constituting the worship of two Gods (ibid, 2). Although this opposition began during the ministry of Christ, it is very apparent by the end of the first century. John’s gospel clearly defined the heavenly Logos and the earthly Messiah as one and the same. Christianity clarified the divinity and personality of the “second power” in the clearest and most emphatic way. But the apostolic understanding of Jesus was found to be heretical by the rabbis (ibid, 190, 220, 205).
About AD 140, Justin Martyr, one of the earliest Apostolic Fathers, indicated Christ was God, but was inferior to the Father. Justin believed that it was Christ who had spoken to Abraham and to the other patriarchs. Justin wrote, “I will endeavor to convince you that there is another who is called God and Lord, besides Him that made all things. . .” (quoted by Forrest, 18-19). Justin wrote that Genesis 19:24 reveals two divine figures who rule the universe. What is remarkable about this statement is that it proves orthodox Christians were viewed as “two power” heretics (Segal, 119). Justin refuted the rabbinic interpretation of Isaiah 42:8. Justin held that the glory spoken of in Isaiah 42:8 was to be given to the servant of Yahweh and no other (Barker, 194). In his Dialogue with Trypho, Justin argues that a second divine figure is responsible in carrying out God’s commands on the Earth. In the dialogue, a Jew admits that there is another divine Being. The only question was the messianic status of this Being (Segal, 221-222). The rabbis had a difficult time trying to overcome the arguments of Justin. Justin knew the Jews allowed one name of God to apply to something like the Logos but refused to identify the Logos with Christ. Justin had done just that.
There were other Church Fathers who held to the “two powers” belief. For example, Hippolytus was accused by Kallistros, bishop of Rome, of worshiping two Gods. Kallistros insisted that the Father, Son, and Logos were all names of “one indivisible spirit.” Kallistros said the Father did not suffer on the cross but suffered with the sufferings of the Son. He wrote that the Father, “after He had taken unto Himself our flesh, raised it to the nature of deity, by bringing it into union with Himself, and made it one, so that Father and Son must be styled one God” (quoted by Walker, 74-75). Irenaeus, another early bishop, defended Christianity against the Gnostics by using the “two powers” tradition. Tertullian was also accused of believing in two Gods by factions of the Arian heresy. Noetus of Smyrna, made use of binitarian texts to uphold his belief in two Gods, and he showed that two Gods are presupposed in the Bible. Novatian stated, “If the Father is one and the Son another, and if the Father is God and Christ God, then there is not one God, but two Gods. . . ” (quoted by Segal, 230). Even Origen felt that the Son of God, as the Logos, could be called a deuteros theos (a second God) (ibid, 228-231). Origen confirmed the existence of two Gods, comparing their unity to a marriage (Grant 1986, 111). Following the Apostolic Fathers, the next generation of Christians confirmed the same belief, but as time went along the distinction began to blur (Barker, 196). Even Athanasius, so important in the Arian controversy, believed that while the Godhead was a numerical unity, the Father and the Son within this unity were two (Harnack, IV, 45-46).
There are many texts in the New Testament that indicate the roles and titles of the second God. When Paul was struck down on the road to Damascus, he said, “Who are you Lord?” How could he later write that he believed in one God, the Father, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, if the Lord was the name by which he knew the Father? The fact is: Paul had come to realize the preexistent Son had been sent into the world. Paul’s conception of God did not originate with him (Barker, 214, 218-223). Paul linked Jesus with God while rejecting the plurality of pagan deities. Absolutely nothing in Paul’s writings indicates anything different from his Christian predecessors. Paul recognized the validity of those who “were in Christ before” him (Rom. 16:7). The decisive beginning worship of Jesus is easily found within the first decade of the Christian movement (Hurtado, 1-5). The origin of the worship of Jesus is found within the pale of Judaism, not in paganism. Christians relied upon ancient Jewish sources for their worship, and the resulting mutation or innovation of monotheism occurred. Christ is identified with Yahweh in the book of Revelation (Rev. 22:12-13) and in Psalm 45:7, He is Elohim enthroned.
As far as the Jews are concerned, extensive spiritualizing of the Scriptures had taken place by the early AD period. Greek philosophy had attached itself to Judaism. Facts and statements in the Old Testament that could not be easily understood were allegorized. Everything was made a symbol of something else. Later Christian writers did not hesitate to use the allegorical method. The perversion of the concrete meaning of the Scriptures was due to this philosophic view of the Old Testament. Simple narratives turned into abstract ideas that took on their own reality. The Old Testament view had been turned into Hellenic conceptions; it was easy to apply this same approach to the gospels. The church later claimed as her own those early writers who had turned to speculation as a means of spiritualizing away the Old Testament (Harnack, I, 223-227). Hellenic philosophy depicted God as transcendental, high above man, impassive, inactive, existing out of relationship to time and that which is earthly. Literature of the time hypostatized the Word of God (Ency. of Religion and Ethics, s.v. “God”). Much later, Maimonides and other Jewish philosophers did the same thing with the Jewish tradition as the Greeks did with the works of Homer-they allegorized it (Hayman, 2). A review of some of the Trinitarian material covered earlier in this article reveals the same thing.
What we call Christianity today has had a long history. The Sermon on the Mount has been distanced and a triune deity pronounced by the church councils. If this present Christian view of God is accurate, then revelation is progressive and comprehension is gradual, various, and uncertain (Ency. of Religion and Ethics, s.v. “God”). Concrete forms in the Bible have been converted into speculative ideas and moral concepts converted into such things as “Abyss,” “Silence,” “Logos,” “Wisdom,” and “Life.” The gospels have become a collection of allegorical representations of the history of God and the world.
The truth of the doctrine of the Trinity can be found in the Old Testament Masoretic text. The Hebrew text must be relied upon for the understanding of the nature of God rather than abstract Greek thinking. The early church could easily have found the concepts of the nature of God in the Old Testament (Knight, 4, 7-9, 23). The Old Testament does not describe God as one numerically. In many places God speaks of Himself in the plural. Present Trinitarian concepts are just as confusing as ever, as many current Christians know (Berkhof, 117, 120). A comparison between the original Christian doctrines and the various Creeds demonstrates how far apart they are. The Old Testament does not teach personal distinctions within the Godhead; it does not explain transcendence, immanence, or how the Holy Spirit functions in the inner life of God. The problem continues to be the idea that the early belief of the church was imperfect, and that the fundamental articles of Christianity had yet to be defined, which was done by the synods and councils. The opinion persists that neither the apostles nor the Apostolic Fathers had the tools to solve many of the problems in the Scriptures. This was accomplished by the explanation of the Trinity.
A Look at Unitarianism
Unitarians are sometimes referred to as Socinians (Heresies Exposed, s.v. “Unitarianism”). Socinians, you may recall, believed that Christ, while supernaturally conceived, was merely a man favored with extraordinary revelations. Unitarians are, therefore, the lineal descendants of the Arians. Like Trinitarians, they have an answer for everything. Their view did not originate with the Arians. Earlier, the Ebionites had a similar belief (Ency of Religion and Ethics, s.v. “God”), and later there was Adoptionism, which taught that Jesus had a natural birth; it was not until He had been tested and received the Holy Spirit that He became Christ (Harnack, III, 21). James Forrest tells us that writers of the age following the original apostles did not believe Christ to be more than a man (Forrest, 12). While this may be true with some writers, it illustrates how rapidly the truth was lost following the deaths of the original apostles. Forrest goes on to say there were a number of comments made during the third and fourth centuries which indicated an aversion to the divinity of Christ. Perhaps the statement by Origen indicates the reason. Origen wrote, “We may by this means [formulating the doctrine of the Trinity] solve the doubts of many men who profess great piety, who are afraid of making two Gods. . . . Because it is probable that some will be offended with our saying that, though the Father is declared to be the only true God, there are other Gods besides Him partaking of His divinity.” Novatian said in his day that the Unitarians scandalized the doctrine of Christ’s divinity. Eusebius wrote, “If this makes them apprehensive lest we should seem to introduce two Gods, let them know, that though we do indeed acknowledge the Son to be God, yet there is (absolutely) but one God. Some, for fear of introducing a second God, make the Father and the Son the same. Marcellus, for fear of saying that there are two Gods, denies the Son to be a “separate person” (quoted in Forrest, 39-40).
Bruce Stephens in a book entitled, God’s Last Metaphor, refers to Andrew Norton, a Unitarian professor of religion at Harvard in the early 1800s, who wrote that the Trinity is part of a system which has been substituted for true religion. Norton’s opinion was that the doctrine of the Trinity was theological rubbish of the past, an essentially incredible doctrine. Norton was convinced that the Trinity and the divinity of Christ were philosophical corruptions of the New Testament. He held the view that there was no instance in the Bible where the Trinitarian interpretation could be attributed to a text without violating the intended meaning (Stephens, 54-55). We might add that the same can be said of the Unitarian interpretation. Unitarians tells us there are 1350 New Testament texts, as well as thousands in the Old Testament, that support their view. They do admit, however, that Jesus is called God for certain two times, but then say it is in a different sense than the intended meaning. While Jesus is called God, He is never called “The God,” which to Unitarians means the “only God.” Personal pronouns occur 11,000 times which show that God is a single individual. They insist that John did not say that God was one God and the Word was “another God.” There is a difference, they say, between the claim that the Word was divine and the claim that He was God.
Unitarians point out that the Church Fathers taught that Jesus was a physical manifestation of the hypostatized “utterance of God.” Tertullian, the reader may recall, referred to the Logos as “speech” saying the “word of revelation” was with God. Unitarians seized upon this same argument to support their view, that Christ was merely a physical manifestation of the hypostatized word and that the Son had not preexisted eternally with the Father as was later believed. It was the “impersonal life” which was with the Father before the birth of Christ, not the preexisting Son. Therefore, when John wrote that the Word became flesh, he meant the transition was that of an impersonal personification becoming embodied in a human being, not a divine person becoming a human person. The Logos was not a second person in the Godhead, but a self-expressive activity of God. Jesus was not a timeless Being, but existed only in the mind and purpose of God. Unitarians tell us if we translate Logos as “utterance,” it is clear a divine personal Being was not intended. “Coming down from heaven” need not imply a previous existence literally. Rather, it means that God’s timeless gift was planned in the eternal councils of heaven. “He was before me” may refer to superiority of rank, not priority of time. Therefore, John 1:15, 30 does not prove Jesus existed before His human birth.
Skirting around the literal meaning of Scripture is found prominently in Unitarian arguments. Unitarians tells us that texts which claim the preexistence of Jesus should be regarded as “the phenomena of messianic consciousness.” The past tense used in John 17 does not tell us of past events; rather, it shows what was destined to happen because God had already decreed it. An example of this reasoning is John 3:13, which states that only the Son of man has ascended to heaven. Unitarians say this text is no proof Christ was previously in heaven. It means this had been forecast about Him. God’s acts are said to have already happened once they are fixed in the divine councils. Texts such as Romans 8:3 and Galatians 4:4 do not prove Christ’s preexistence. They probably mean He was commissioned by God to share in man’s frailty, bondage, and sin. To be “sent from God” does not mean Christ previously existed in heaven. It is fanciful, Unitarians tell us, to think that Trinitarianism and Binitarianism can be made compatible with the strict sense of monotheism. When Christians began to worship Christ, they fell into idolatry. Unitarians assure us that the failure to grasp Jewish monotheism will lead to disastrous results when it comes to believing in Christ. The reader is already aware that Jewish monotheism has been grossly misunderstood. The fact is: The entire crux of the Unitarian error is based on this misunderstanding!
Unitarians interpret Psalm 110:1 to mean the Messiah was not God, but a human descendant of David. This is because, they say, the first Yahweh in Psalm 110:1 refers to God, and the word “Lord” (Adonai) is a reference to the Messiah. The only reason Mary was told she would bear the “Son of God” was because of the miracle that would be performed on her. Unitarians insist that Bible expressions that describe Christ’s preexistence do not mean what they imply. For example, “from God” means “the man who belongs to God.” Jesus was not God; He was God’s elevated representative. His equality of function with God did not mean He was God. The reason these texts have been misunderstood, Unitarians tell us, is because Jewish categories of thought have been ignored. Past tenses, for example, do not always refer to past events. John’s vocabulary regarding the identity of Jesus must go back to its Hebrew original. The human “Son of man” had preexisted in God’s divine plan only. While Jesus is a person different from the Father, He is not God. He is not God just because the fulness of the Deity dwells in Him. Christ was God’s chosen Agent, but to say He is God misrepresents the Scriptures. The notion that unless Jesus is God we have no Savior, is not Scriptural. Even though the name of God is in the plural in Genesis 1:26, Unitarians say this is no proof God is more than one. They tell us it is more likely the “us” in this verse points to God’s attendant angels. Furthermore, elohim is plural but singular in meaning. To say that God is plural is to cast aside the rules of language and grammar. In this particular text Unitarians do not hesitate to utilize Trinitarian argument to support their cause. Both insist the “us” refers to the council of angels. Shema is the word used to describe Deuteronomy 6:4. We have commented on this text briefly earlier in this work. Unitarians tell us that the echad (one) in Deuteronomy 6:4 does not refer to a compound unity. Echad, for example, describes Abraham as one. But the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament says that echad stresses unity while recognizing a diversity within that unity. Echad also is the plural form.
We are told the reason people worshiped Christ is because worship is offered not only to God but to people holding dignity. The king of Israel was worshiped in 1 Chronicles 29:20. The Hebrew text does not support this idea. Green’s Interlinear reads: “. . . And all the congregation blessed Jehovah, the God of their fathers, and worshiped Jehovah, and bowed to the king.” Unitarians tell us Daniel was worshiped in Daniel 2:46. The Critical and Experimental Commentary, by Jamison, Fausset, and Brown says differently. It tell us Daniel refused to accept this divine honor. The word “answered” in verse 47 implies Daniel had rejected these honors and in compliance with these objections the king said, “Of a truth . . . your God is a God of gods.” Unitarians tell us the Greek word latreuo is used for the worship of the Father only. Yet, in Acts 7:42 and Romans 1:25 it refers to idolatry, in one case the worship of demons, and in the other the worship of earthy creatures. Unitarians say both Thomas and the blind man worshiped Jesus, but this does not prove they regarded Him of the same nature and substance with God. It is fallacious to argue that just because Jesus was worshiped, He must be God. He could just as well be worshiped as the Messiah. The words of Thomas, “my Lord and my God” are simple messianic titles from the Old Testament. The authority to forgive sins as the representative of God did not make Jesus God. He had functional equality with God; He was not coequal or coeternal with the Father. When Thomas referred to Jesus as God he was merely using the same title that applied to all authorities, including the Roman emperor. The usage of the word in that day is not the same as it is today. The occasional use of God in the New Testament, when referring to Jesus, is a special reference. The word God can be applied to a representative of God.
According to Unitarians, Paul’s background made him an uncompromising monotheist. Paul, they say, did not call Jesus God. The only text that states Jesus in some sense was called God is Hebrews 1:8. But, it is not clear who wrote the book of Hebrews. Unitarians tell us that 1 Corinthians 8:4-6 clearly states, “there is no God but the Father.” Paul preached that God was one person. As we have seen, misunderstanding of Jewish monotheism makes it easy for Unitarians to jump to such conclusions. Jewish monotheism involved the worship of two Gods-the Most High God and His supreme Agent. The Greek word heis (one) is used in reference to God (John 10:30), where God is referred to as one. Unitarians admit heis can be used in the sense of collective unity, for example, one body composed of many members, but this is inappropriate when used with God because God is one Person. Therefore, when Jesus said, “I am,” or “I am He,” this means He was merely stating a messianic claim. This is a divine title but without being God. When Christ said, “before Abraham was, I am,” He meant that He was appointed Savior of the world before the birth of Abraham. When the Jews became offended because Jesus made Himself equal with God, what they misunderstood was that He was the Son of God with the rank of a human being. The text in John 8:58 can just as well mean “before Abraham comes to be [returns to life by the resurrection] I am.” Unitarians tell us that Jesus’ statement in John 6:62 is not a reference to His future ascension; rather, the answer is found in Daniel 7:13 where the Messiah man was seen in heaven in a vision of the future. This became a reality at His ascension. It was a heavenly preview, so to speak. What had been promised Him may have happened in a vision before it happened in reality. In order to explain the supposed contradiction between John 3:13 and 20:17, where Jesus said He had not yet ascended, the Unitarian answer is that things may be said to have already happened in God’s intentions while they await the actual fulfillment. John 17:5 is another example of this reasoning. Unitarians tell us that in the biblical way of thinking one may have something from God before he actually possesses it. God’s promise to Abraham is an example of this when He said, “to your seed I have given this land.”
Unitarians also tell us that Romans 9:5 does not prove that Jesus is “God over all.” At most, they admit, one may claim a certain probability that the passage refers to Jesus as God. And, if this is the case, it is an exception because the title may refer to the messianic sense. To understand 1 Corinthians 10:4, Unitarians say the Hebrew way of thinking must be taken into consideration. If one does not do so, one might get the idea that Christ was alive before His physical birth. Such a conclusion would be wrong because if Paul had said such a thing, he would have contradicted the words of the prophets. We are told we must guard against such a literal understanding of the Scriptures. The verb “to be” is often used in less than a literal sense. The Israelites were not literally baptized. The Rock did not literally follow them. Paul knows only of a Messiah who is a man-the final Adam-as 1 Corinthians 15 shows. The fact that Christ died for our sins is proof He was not God, for God cannot die. Jesus made no claim that He was God. Philippians 2:5-8 should not be read with a twentieth century interpretation. Philippians 2 does not say Jesus was God; it says He was in the form of God. Tradition alone is responsible for “in the form of God” meaning that Jesus had a preexistent life in heaven rather than a legal identity with God as a human being on Earth. In a similar manner, Colossians 1:15-17 can be best understood by recognizing the cultural and cosmological presuppositions of the day. Paul was not supporting the idea of a preexistent being. Jewish monotheism is what gives us the understanding and perception of God’s wisdom more than any other field of inquiry.
Unitarians go on to tell us that 1 Timothy 6:15-16 refers to the Father and not to the God of the Old Testament. Neither can Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1 prove that Jesus was God. This is because, we are told, that the sentence structure in both cases becomes questionable when “and” (kai) joins two nouns. And, even if these texts are two of those exceptions, where God and Savior are used regarding the divinity of Jesus, they do not establish Christ’s position as coequal or coeternal with the Creator. The accurate translation of Hebrews 1:2 should be “through whom also He [God] made the ages.” This indicates that the Son is not eternal but came into existence as the historical Jesus. Peter’s statement to Christ, “You are the Son of the living God,” merely illustrates the messianic title which referred to a human being. “Son of God” is a synonym for the Messiah. Nowhere in the recorded word, with the possible exception of Thomas’ statement, is there the slightest indication that the apostles thought they were dealing with a God/man. Even 1 John 5:20 should not be construed to mean that Jesus is God. The true God reference is to the Father, not to Jesus.
So much for Unitarianism. We see the same kind of presupposed reasoning that is used by Trinitarians-reading into the Scriptures what is already assumed. In both cases, the error is the result of the failure to understand Jewish monotheism. In the case of the Trinitarians, three persons are made into a unity, and in the case of Unitarians, God is one person only. Unitarians reject Jesus Christ as God sent from heaven and like the Arians believe He was brought into existence by a creation. Unitarians are indeed the lineal descendants of the Arians.
The Christianity that Jesus brought rapidly retired after the first century AD. There were a number of reasons. Many regarded the morality of the gospel too severe. There were many popular pagan beliefs stored up from tradition. There was a lack of central authority, with the churches in a loose confederation. There was a misunderstanding of apostolic teachings. And, there was a fusing of the gospel with Hellenism. Harnack tells us there was no definite doctrine of faith in the principal elements of Christianity. Harnack, of course, is referring to what Christianity became after the first century. The end result was speculation, rampant imagination, and a spiritual interpretation of the Old Testament (Harnack I, 45). Since the Bible has little to say about the nature of God, pagan philosophers and Catholic theologians were relied upon. Reasoning was employed based on presumed theories approved by the majority. These theories postulated that there cannot be more than one God, that God does not have a shape, that He exists outside of space and time, and that His nature can be comprehended by human reason. Philo, for example, though a Jew, who did not know the Hebrew Scriptures and could not even read Hebrew, relied on the Septuagint-a Greek translation of the Old Testament. With respect to accuracy, the Septuagint left much to be desired. Its critical value is much impaired by the corrupt state of its original text. Philo’s writings, as we noted earlier, had a great influence on Alexandrian theologians in the Christian era. Anyone familiar with the Bible will quickly find the God of the Bible is depicted quite differently than that of the Greek philosophers (Knight, 78).
The average Christian is not interested in relating to the Absolute or how the diverse modes of God’s being can be resolved into an ultimate unity (Richardson, 118). We can know what God has revealed in the Bible, and in this revelation He does have a form and shape. The God of the Old Testament is a living Personality who thinks, feels, wills, and possesses all the characteristics of a personal life. He has limbs, organs, a face, fingers, arms, heart, and a voice. The language of the Bible is the popular language, not that of the scholars. When we read, “God made man in his own image” we quickly become aware of the manner in which we are to think of the nature of God. It is similar to our own humanity. In spite of the fact that man will never truly understand the nature of God, we can be assured by Jesus’ statement, “. . . he that hath seen me hath seen the Father.” We can, by a study of the gospels, see what God is like. In spite of the many Scriptures that describe God’s appearance, some Trinitarians continue to insist that God has no shape. One of the earliest teachings of the Bible is that man is like God, that man looks like God, and this likeness is at the foundation of religion. Jesus did not preach about the personality of God. He presupposed it. The question of divine personality did not arise during the Old Testament period and during the lives of the apostles. One fact is certain: It is senseless to attribute genuine moral qualities to a mindless order (Clarke, 60-61). When we say God is personal, we mean He is a personal Being, knows Himself, is conscious of Himself, and is aware of His significance. He is a conscious, intelligent, active, related Being (ibid, 62, 64).
Notice just a few examples of how God is described in the Bible:
There are manlike descriptions which show God’s form, shape, and emotions.
And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart (Gen. 6:6). Wherefore say unto the children of Israel, I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will rid you out of their bondage, and I will redeem you with a stretched out arm, and with great judgments (Ex. 6:6). And I will walk among you, and will be your God, and ye shall be my people (Lev. 26:12). Or hath God assayed to go and take him a nation from the midst of another nation, by temptations, by signs, and by wonders, and by war, and by a mighty hand, and by a stretched out arm, and by great terrors, according to all that the LORD your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes? (Deut. 4:34). He that planted the ear, shall he not hear? he that formed the eye, shall he not see? (Ps. 94:9). Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity: wherefore lookest thou upon them that deal treacherously, and holdest thy tongue when the wicked devoureth the man that is more righteous than he? (Hab. 1:13).
God is described as invisible, but who occasionally manifests Himself.
Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: (Col. 1:15). Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen (1 Tim. 1:17). And God appeared unto Jacob again, when he came out of Padanaram, and blessed him . . . .And God went up from him in the place where he talked with him (Gen. 35:9, 13). And the LORD came down in a cloud, and spake unto him, and took of the spirit that was upon him, and gave it unto the seventy elders: and it came to pass, that, when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied, and did not cease (Num. 11:25).
In spite of the easily understood texts, some Trinitarians today presume to describe God’s nature-descriptions which are completely contrary to the inspired Word of God. They give us detailed “facts” they really do not know nor does anyone else know-“facts” based on Greek speculation. Those who listen to them are just as confused as the Christians of the third through fifth centuries. When will man learn that he does not have the capacity to describe the nature of God, except in the limited way God has revealed in the Bible? Yet, some Trinitarians refer to Romans 1:23 to prove that God does not have a shape. A look at this text does not support such a conclusion. It merely states the heathen worshiped various beings that were not God. It makes no comment about a shapeless God. This is a Trinitarian example of “implicit” use of texts for their own purposes. The Church Fathers, tainted by Greek philosophy, which was the standard education for the time, thought of God as beyond space and time. Such phrases as “eternal generation of the Son,” and “consubstantiality with the Father” were impossible to comprehend and are nonbiblical. The Hebrews thought of God in terms of visibility and personality. The Greeks thought of God in terms of pure being, not in biblical concepts (Knight, 9-11).
The idea that the doctrine of the Trinity is a distinctively Christian concept is completely misleading. It is an idea that was formed after being adopted from Hellenism. The truth is: There is no doctrine of the Trinity in the Bible and frankly no need for such a doctrine. The distinction between the Father and the Son is strictly a philosophical consideration, the “product of metaphysics” (Welch, 49-50). Trinitarians insist the Bible cannot be taken literally, and that it does not mean what it appears to be saying. They often distort Hebrew and Greek words. Trinitarian use of the word “theology” really means philosophy, in this case Greek philosophy. This may be the reason why some Trinitarians have little regard for the Bible in “theological matters.” By that term they mean philosophical matters. Their ideas are based on “implicit” Bible texts rather than “explicit” evidence. But, as we have seen, Unitarians do the same thing. Scriptures that are mostly vague are seized upon and made to fit their conclusions. Take Isaiah 6:3 for example. “Holy, holy, holy,” here supposedly proves the Trinity. Trinitarians tell us the apostles were unable to understand the nature of God because they were not advanced enough. They had not evolved mentally. We are told truth comes by scholarship, that Hebrew and Greek words cannot be accurately translated into English, or that these words have other meanings. Also, we are told that many Bible passages are figures of speech, that visions and dreams do not mean what they portray, that there are analogies, representations, and mistranslations. In addition, there is the Jewish viewpoint, and there are technicalities that only scholars are capable of understanding. Trinitarians tell us one cannot have confidence in what he or she reads in the Bible, that seemingly clear texts are not clear at all. The reader may recall lay members were told the same thing during the third and fourth centuries.
Trinitarians insist the doctrine of the Trinity was revealed. That depends on how one determines revelation. One thing is certain: The doctrine was not revealed in the sense the Bible uses the word revelation; it decidedly was not revealed from heaven. No spokesman for God was inspired to speak God’s words. It came about as a result of a derivation, and no language on Earth can presume to define the inner nature of God (Bowie, 133-134). The fact is: None of the various doctrines regarding the Trinity is satisfactory, and all of them, in one way or another, involve confusion. The modern, as well as the ancient views, create more problems than they solve. Every “solution,” no matter how ingenious, conceals the paradox one way or the other. The distinctions in the Godhead are ambiguous. There are contradictions that have generally not been recognized (Richardson, 7-8). There is an artificiality in the threeness. The questions remain: How can three be one and one three? Is God a single center of self-consciousness, or is He three centers? If there are three centers of consciousness, are there not three Gods? The fact is: There is no way the human mind can make this concept actual. The doctrine of the Trinity meets with bewilderment rather than faith. The argument that it was revealed evades the objections that can be brought against it (ibid, 91-95). In the theory that the Son was incarnated as a divine hypostasis, the word “person” is a philosophical term. Some Trinitarians do not like this and prefer to say “God does not have a self.” But, there is no theoretical solution to how the infinite God could be manifested in Jesus Christ. As Cyril Richardson says, “All we can say is that God is both, and leave it at that” (Richardson, 43). As we have already seen, some Trinitarians believe God fills the universe, that He is everywhere. Texts that speak of God’s omnipresence are interpreted in this manner. This view is akin to the pagan doctrine of the world soul, that all the universe is divine by virtue of being a part of the world soul. Another Trinitarian assumption is that God created space. Some have countered this assertion by pointing out that space is void. The Bible says God created various objects and put them in space. Neither the Bible nor scientific evidence indicates that space was created. Space does not depend on the existence of matter. Matter merely defines space. Both “time and space” have always existed; they were not created. Creation placed time and space in a measurable context from a human perspective. The reason God is not subject to time and space is because He controls them.
Trinitarians refer to Hebrews 1:3 (where the word “person” is the translation from hypostaseos) as proof that Christ was a hypostatic emanation. It has been pointed out, however, that the word hypostasis means “foundation,” or “support.” In Paul’s epistles it is translated “confident,” “confidence,” “substance,” or “person.” In four of these cases it means “foundation.” In ancient papyri, hypostasis meant “title,” or “deed.” A better translation for “person” in Hebrews 1:3 would be “what the Father stands for.” It is unfortunate that the doctrine of a hypostatical emanation of Christ in the Incarnation is based on the interpretation of hypostasis, which in the various councils was taken to mean “substance” and hence “person.”
We have referred to the Shema several times in this work. It is the Jewish term given to Deuteronomy 6:4 and is often cited to “prove” monotheism-that there is only one God. The indication is that it was not adopted as a doctrine until post-exilic times due to the persecution of Antiochus Epiphanes. Much ado has been made by Unitarians regarding the Shema. The text reads: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD.” The entire subject of Deuteronomy 6 is obedience to God’s commandments. An important key to Bible understanding is that individual Scriptures must be understood in their context. Some have correctly noted that the interpretation given the Shema by the Jews is somewhat misleading. The word “Hear” is shama in the Hebrew and is often translated in the imperative-that is, “listen,” or “obey.” The word “one” is the Hebrew echad and is sometimes translated “alone.” See the following Scriptures for this usage: Joshua 22:20, 1 Chronicles 29:1, Isaiah 51:2, and Ezekiel 7:5. While echad is generally translated “one,” these texts demonstrate it has other meanings. In the context of Deuteronomy 6, how should verse 6 be translated? The logical way would be, “Obey O Israel Yahweh Elohim, Yahweh alone.” Notice the “is” is in italics in the King James Version. Translators thought it would make the meaning clearer, but it confuses the correct meaning. Also, the colon, used as a punctuation mark to again supposedly help make the meaning clear, should be removed. It also confuses the correct meaning. We have italicized “Elohim,” to call attention to the plural form for the name of God. Deuteronomy 6:4 was quoted by Jesus in Mark 12:29. An examination of the Greek words sustains the same meaning cited above for Deuteronomy 6:4. The Greek word for “Hear” is akove. It is the imperative, indicating a command. The word for “one” is eis, which in Mark 2:7 means “alone.” See A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, by W.F. Arndt and F.W. Gingrich, page 230. To follow the correct translation of Deuteronomy 6:4, Mark 12:29 should be translated, “Hear [obey] Israel, the Lord our God Lord alone is.” Jesus accused the Jewish religious leaders of “. . . not knowing the Scriptures. . .” (Matt. 22:29). The Shema, no doubt, falls into that category. Other New Testament examples of eis (one) are as follows: John 10: 30, Jesus said He and His Father are one; John 17:11, 21, Jesus prayed His disciples would be one; Romans 12:5 and 1 Corinthians 10:17, there are many members in one body; 1 Corinthians 12:12, 13, 20, 26, all say the body, which is made up of many, is one; Romans 15:6, the members should be of one mind; 1 Corinthians 3:8, Paul and Apollos planted and watered, but are one; 1 Corinthians 6:16, a man joined to a harlot is one; Galatians 3:28, all are one in Christ; Ephesians 2:15-16, the two are made one; Ephesians 4:5-6, one Lord and one God, but comprised of two individuals; Hebrews 2:11, the sanctified and sanctifier are one.
The Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, s.v. “God,” points out that the writings of the apostles agree in representing God as the Yahweh of the Old Testament. They did not concern themselves with the mystery of God’s Person. The Encyclopedia of Religion, by Mirca Eliade, s.v. “Trinity,” states that while Genesis 1:26 is proof of the plurality in God, the use of “Word,” “Spirit,” “Wisdom,” and “Presence” as personifications goes beyond the intention and purpose of the Old Testament. There are a number of binitarian texts in the New Testament. Notice, for example: Romans 4:24; 8:11, 2 Corinthians 4:14, Colossians 2:12, 1 Timothy 2:5; 6:13, and 2 Timothy 4:1. Matthew 22:44 and Mark 12:36 are quoted from Psalm 110:1. The Greek text uses kurios (Lord) two times in each verse clearly showing that in David’s time two Beings qualified for the title “Lord.” Unitarians cannot deny from this text that the title “Lord” belongs to Christ, but their reasoning is that it does not imply divinity. The fact is: the word kurios refers to God many times and is used with reference to Jesus (Dictionary of the Gospels, edited by Joel Green and Scot McNight, s.v. “God”).
“God Most High” refers to the Father. Jesus was called the “Son of the Highest,” that is, the “Son of the Most High” (Luke 1:32). He was also called “the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18), and “the Son of the Father” (2 John 3). These texts prove the binitarian view as John used “Father” as a title for God many times. This is particularly clear in John 5:18 where Jesus said God was His Father. The text states, “Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him because . . . he said God was his Father, making himself equal with God.” The Unitarian reply to this is, we must not assume that what the Jews thought is proof that Jesus was God. John clearly combined a subordinationist view with binitarian theology. He revealed that the Son is God just like the Father (Dictionary of the Gospels, s.v. “God”). Margaret Barker tells us that the earliest detailed recognition of Jesus as the Great Angel is found in the prologue to the book of Revelation (Barker, 203). She points out that there is no doubt John regarded the heavenly Christ as the ancient Yahweh. John 15:18 is not the only place we find where Jesus offended the Jewish leaders. See also Mark 14:64 and Matthew 26:65. The Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, s.v. “God,” states that the worship of Jesus as divine goes back far earlier than the gospel of John. It goes back to the earliest Christian tradition. The New Testament makes it plain that Jesus was God and was worshiped. See Matthew 2:11; 4:10; 8:2; 9:18; 14:33; 15:25; 28:9, Luke 24:52, and John 9:38. The word Messiah was understood to mean God. In Isaiah 9:6-7 the child and son is called “The mighty God.” Texts in the Old Testament that reveal the duality of God are as follows: Genesis 1:26; 3:22-23; 11:7-8; 14:18; 19:24, Exodus 20:2 (the text should read, “I am the Lord thy Gods”), Psalm 2:2; 45:6-7; 110:1, Proverbs 30:4, Isaiah 11:1-2; 42:1, 6-7; 44:6; 48:12-16; 61:1, Daniel 3:25; 7:13.
The following texts demonstrate that Yahweh and the Angel of Yahweh are one and the same: Genesis 16:7-13; 22:11-12; 48:15-16, Exodus 3:2-7, Numbers 22:22-31, Judges 5:23; 6:11-12, 22; 13:3, 22, 2 Kings 19:20, 34-35, Isaiah 37:34-36. A text that deeply troubled the rabbis, as well as later Unitarians, is Genesis 19:24. Here we see both the Father and the Son bore the name of Yahweh. Also, if the name elohim refers to a single Person, how do we explain Genesis 1:26; 3:22; 11:6-7, Isaiah 6:8? The Unitarian answer, of course, would be that this refers to the plurality of majesty, or to angels, or the divine councils. What is clear from these texts, however, is that God’s name is applied to more than one Person. Angels are never called God in the Bible. John 6:27 calls the Father God. Hebrews 1:8 calls Jesus God. Romans 9:5 tells us Christ is God, blessed forever. Acts 20:28 states that God purchased the Church with His own blood; this text refers to Christ only. Jesus Christ is called the “true God” in 1 John 5:20. That Christ was preexistent is found in Philippians 2:6, Colossians 1:15, 2 Corinthians 8:9, and John 1:1. John makes it plain that Jesus is the Logos. The Unitarian idea that elohim refers to the plural of majesty is reading into the Hebrew a modern meaning. While the plural elohim can take a singular verb, the plurality of God is certainly demonstrated in Genesis 1:26; 11:7, and Isaiah 6:8. Several other nouns used for God are also in the plural. These are: Malachi 1:6 (adonim, plural for Master); Isaiah 54:5 (both Maker and husband are plural); Ecclesiastes 5:8 (higher is higher Ones); Psalm 78:25 (angels here are Mighty Ones which is never used for angels); Daniel 4:26 (verse 13 uses the singular, but this verse uses “they”); Daniel 5:18, 20 (“they” in verse 20 refers to the Most High God in verse 18). Other examples include Daniel 9:17, Isaiah 10:12; 64:4, Hosea 1:7.
Trinitarians do not hesitate to admit that the problem of the Holy Spirit has been the greatest difficulty with their doctrine. The problem has been so serious that it has been necessary to uphold the personality of the Holy Spirit in order to keep it in sight (Clarke, 246). When hearing about three persons in the Trinity, the layman naturally thinks of it in terms of separate centers of self-consciousness and self-determination. The fact is: Unless they are tritheists, most people who accept the doctrine of the Trinity do so by sacrificing their intellect. During the nineteenth century an acceptable belief concerning the Holy Spirit was that it was the spiritual influence that operates in the hearts and minds of men. Orthodoxy held to the “personality of the Holy Spirit.” The Orthodox explanation is that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three ways of describing one saving reality (Berkhof, 114-115, 117). The only possible text that could be used to support this notion is Acts 5:3-4. But, in the New Testament the Spirit is often synonymous with Christ, so this text gives no support at all. To lie to the Holy Spirit was to lie to Christ. Clearly, in the Old Testament, the Spirit was conceived as the energy which gave the workman his skill, and the source of inspiration that illuminated the minds and hearts of the prophets (Richardson, 45). The Spirit covered a wide variety of meanings regarding God’s dynamic action.
In the New Testament, God at work in Jesus, and Jesus, the incarnation of God, meant there was no distinction between the divine in Jesus and God’s Spirit. Paul describes the Spirit as the vital, dynamic energy of God, and in 2 Corinthians 3:17 Paul described the Lord to be the Spirit (Richardson, 45). Paul’s epistles show that the function of the Spirit of God and the Spirit of Christ are identical, and he differentiated the Father and the Son from the Spirit. The New Testament shows that the Spirit is the agent through which the Christian Church was born, and that it was responsible for many spiritual gifts. As Grant points out, John 7:39, John 14:26, and John 16:7 make plain that the Comforter is the Spirit of Christ (Grant 1966, 72-74, 77). When Paul was struck down on the road to Damascus, he gained a personal reality of Christ that the Spirit did not give. When Paul spoke of Christ, he clearly had a personal Being in mind. When he spoke of the Spirit, he thought in terms of the divine power which was bestowed upon men as a consequence of the work of Christ. Romans 8:9-11 reveal that Christ, the Spirit of God, and the Spirit of Christ are practically indistinguishable. There is no justifiable way to make Romans 8:9-11 represent the Spirit as a third person of the Trinity. What can be said about the Spirit of Christ can be said about the Spirit of God. The Spirit of God is God Himself, living, acting, and energizing the world. It is the energy of God in us, expressing itself in many ways (Richardson, 53-54, 109). Even the Trinitarian G.A.F. Knight admits that when we look at the work of the Holy Spirit in both the Old and New Testaments, we see there is no neat cut-and-dried evidence for the doctrine of the Holy Spirit as a third person of the Trinity (Knight, 47).
Trinitarians continue to hang onto their beliefs, citing Matthew 28:19 as proof there is a Trinity. Yet, most scholars view this text as triadic, that is, it only makes reference to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Baptism in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, means one is joined to the Father and the Son by the Spirit. The fact is: There is no sensible reason God should speak of Himself in the plural unless He is plural. The Bible nowhere states that God is three persons or three hypostases. We have seen in both the Old and New Testaments many texts which illustrate that Christ and the Farther are ONE god, but two separate persons. Augustine described the members of the Trinity as having “internal relations” within the one personal God. Much confusion has arisen because how can three relations have the capacity to love? Persons may love but not “relations.” This personalization of relations has led to untold perplexity. God does not love His thought of Himself, nor can His thought of Himself love Him in return (Richardson, 103, 112). The doctrine of the Trinity was forced upon the church; it is quite apparent the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit do not constitute a genuine Trinity. The whole concept is wrapped up in a degree of artificiality, which is arbitrary and poses insoluble problems (ibid, 142-143).
A look at the Scriptures makes it plain the Trinitarian doctrine is not found in the Bible. It is the product of Greek speculation and a faulty interpretation of the Bible based on preconceived ideas. Today, the doctrine continues to generate more problems than it solves. It came about in an attempt to define the nature of the Godhead based on Jewish monotheism and gradually evolved into a threefold manifestation of the divinity. Unitarianism is also the result of the attempt to define the Godhead in terms of Jewish monotheism. It denies the divinity of Christ based on a faulty understanding of how the Jews viewed God. The Jews upheld a two power concept in their monotheism. Neither a threefold deity, nor a unitary deity, depicts the Bible revelation. Both the Old and New Testaments reveal God as a duality-God the Father and the Yahweh, the One who became Jesus Christ. Many clear and explicit texts uphold the binitarian view. Informed Bible students will not be taken in by specious arguments used to support either Trinitarianism or Unitarianism. They find no need to explain away the straightforward and precise Scriptures that prove the family of god is ONE-but comprised of two separate persons. Both Trinitarianism and Unitarianism are weighed in the balance and found wanting.
Jesus said, “I and my Father are one” (John 10:30). By this very statement, He affirmed a family relationship in the Godhead. Both God the Father and Jesus Christ are called God in the New Testament (John 1:1, 14, 1 Cor. 8:6, 1 Tim. 3:16, Heb. 1:8). So, what did Jesus mean when He said, “I and my Father are one”? Jesus meant that God is a family comprised of more than one Being, and that family is one, united in purpose, mind, and mission. Those who truly affirm there is one God, refer to the family of God. All the scriptural evidence points to a family in the Godhead, not to the Trinitarian or Unitarian view.
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