01 January, 2006

What the Bible Says about "The Trinity"

According the the Roman Catholic Encyclopedia, the Trinity is defined as follows:
"...in the unity of the Godhead there are Three Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, these Three Persons being truly distinct one from another...the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God, and yet there are not three Gods but one God. In this Trinity of Persons the Son is begotten of the Father by an eternal generation, and the Holy Spirit proceeds by an eternal procession from the Father and the Son. Yet, notwithstanding this difference as to origin, the Persons are co-eternal and co-equal: all alike are uncreated and omnipotent."

For over 15 centuries, the trinity has been the banner doctrine of mainstream Christianity. Even as Protestant groups enjoyed free access to the Bible and the freedom to break cleanly from Catholicism, almost all have chosen to retain doctrine of the trinity. And this despite the fact that the trinity flies in face of two of the Bible's clearest and most absolute teachings:

God is One.
Jesus died.

The Oneness of God was the defining belief that took Abraham from Ur, the pillar on which was built the nation of Israel. "Hear O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord" (Dt. 6:4) It is impossible to be more clear and concise: God is one. Yet the trinity purports that God is one, yet three. Biblically, the doctrine of the trinity fails for the following reasons:

1. The doctrine is entirely absent from the Old Testament. It makes no sense for God to insist for 3000 years that He is One, then backtrack and reveal that He is in fact three. (The doctrine of the Trinity wasn't established until 300AD)

2. Biblically, God the Father and Jesus are distinct. Paul states clearly in I Cor. 8:6 that "for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things, and for whom we exist...".

3. In the Bible, "God" and "the Father" are interchangeable terms; "Jesus" and "God" are not. In fact, Jesus calls the Father his God in John 20:17. Paul reiterates this in many places, such as Eph. 1:17 and II Cor. 11:31.

4. All throughout scripture there is a clear hierarchy between Jesus and God, with the Father always acknowledged as supreme. For this reason, Jesus and God cannot be "co-equal" as some state.

5. The Holy Spirit isn't mentioned in any of the heirarchies.

6. It is evident that at least during Jesus' ministry (and tradition says he never ceased to be God), there were two distinct wills at work - the will of God and the will of the flesh (John 5:30).

7. The words "trinity", "God the Son" and "God the Holy Spirit" do not appear in the Bible.

8. God is all-knowing. Jesus learnt.

9. No man has seen God. Jesus was seen by hundreds of people.

10. Neither Paul nor Jesus ever taught the concept of the Trinity.

11. The term "one substance" (as used by Trinitarians to explain the unity of the Godhead) wasn't a part of the Greek language durng the time the New Testament was being written. Paul himself would have been confused by this term.

12. Jesus was "made a little lower than the angels" (Hebrews 2:9). If Jesus and God are co-equal, this verse in Hebrews is a logical impossibility.

13. God requires that believers worship him. Jesus never asked his followers to worship him.

14. In Matthew 28:10, Jesus calls his followers "brothers". Are we "children of God" or "brethren of God"?

15. Matthew 3:17 - What is the value of God indicating his pleasure in Christ if Christ was Himself? And what had Christ supposedly achieved here, if he was God and it was impossible for Him to sin or do wrong?

16. Psalm 89:26 is a Messianic Psalm. In it, God says "...I will make him (Jesus)…”. If Jesus pre-existed, this verse doesn't make sense as he would already have been "made".

17. 1Ti 2:5 "For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus." An obvious distinction between God and Jesus and an obvious distinction of ongoing roles and authority.

18. Mat 24:36 "But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only." If Jesus is God, why doesn't he know when he's going to return to earth?

19. John 8:17-18 Jesus quotes from the law the necessity that evidence, to be valid, must be agreed upon by two witnesses. Jesus states that the two witnesses are himself and God. Two, not one. If Jesus were God, there was only one witness, and if Jesus says there are two, then he and God are not one.

20. God is immortal. Jesus died.

21. Contrary to popular misconception, the words 'echad' and 'yachid' are not a sufficient defense of evidence of the Trinity in the OT (specifically, "The Lord our God is a bunch of Gods" vs. "The Lord our God is one God" Deut. 6:4). The Hebrew word "one" in itself has no special. The compound noun in the sentence defines whether "one" is plural (one bunch of grapes) or singular (one language filled the earth).

And here we touch upon our second main point: Did Jesus die?

The unanimous answer is that yes, of couse he did. However, have you seriously stopped to consider the undeniable fact of the immortality of God, and what that means? It means that God cannot die. Death and immortality are mutually exclusive characteristics.

If Jesus died, he cannot be God, for God cannot die.
If Jesus is God, he cannot have died, for God cannot die.

Think about this for a moment...

Also consider the temptation of Christ. The Bible emphatically states in many places (ie Heb. 4:15) that Jesus was tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. But if Jesus is God, this creates another set of contradictions:

1. Temptation without the possibility of falling to sin is meaningless.
2. If Jesus is God, it was impossible that he sin, and it makes no sense to say he was tempted.

The essence of Christ's humanity rests in these two points: that he was tempted and that he died. In this is everything by which we identify ourselves with him, and relate through him to God. Both death and temptation to evil are absolutely remote from God. If God could be tempted and die, what need would there be of a mediator (as Christ is referred to as being)? If God could be tempted and die, He would be just like us.

The Trinity, resting on its' age and tradition in the Christian world, attempts to bring Jesus, God and the Holy Spirit into one person. This is an incorrect Biblical teaching that stands in the way of those who would come to God in spirit and in truth, seeking reconciliation and redemption through Christ. When a doctrine takes the most simple relationship to understand, and twists into something incomprehensible, you have to start asking questions.


Blogger Ron said...

In the beginning was the Word. and the Word was with God..and the Word was God.....and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us..

March 02, 2006 10:23 PM  
Blogger Jason said...

Thanks for the comment, Ron.

John 1:1-3
Christ was not literally the Word. He was the word "made flesh". (vs. 14). This is an important distinction. The Greek word "logos" translated "Word" expresses the divine intention, mind, or purpose. "Logos" is defined as "a word, speech, matter, reason." In the A.V. "logos" is translated by more than 20 different English words and is used for utterances of men (e.g., John 17:20) as well as those of God (John 5:38).

"In the beginning was the Word...all things were made by him." "Logos" does not in itself denote personality; it was personified in the A.V. by its translators. The Diaglott avoids confusion by translating the pronouns in the neuter (as do many of the non-English Bibles) - "through it every thing was done." An Old Testament parallel to the personification of logos is the personification of wisdom: "The LORD possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was." (Prov. 8:22, 23). In this passage, wisdom is personified as a woman. (vs. 1, 2) but we don't make the leap to claim that a woman literally pre-existed.

Angels, prophets and Christ have been vehicles by which God has expressed his logos. Christ is the complete manifestation of the logos - "in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily." (Col. 2:9). It was the "logos" which was in the beginning with God, not Christ.

These verses in John support the idea put forward in Hebrews 1 in that nothing in Scripture would make sense if Jesus had never existed: "God hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds." Hebrews 1:2

The "worlds" in this verse does not refer to the earth and the other planets but rather to the ages of dispensations (or 'the divine ordering of worldly affairs' ) on the earth. The Greek world translated "worlds" is not the usual word for worlds - "kosmos", but "aion" which means, "age, indefinite time, dispensation".

Jesus Christ is the chief cornerstone of all ages - whether antediluvian (before the flood), patriarchal (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, etc.), Mosiac, Gentile, or Millennial. The Seed was promised to Eve (Gen. 3:15) and Abraham looked forward to Christ's day with the eye of faith. (John 8:56 cf. Gal. 3:8). Even the sacrifices of animals under the Law of Moses only had their effectiveness because they pointed to the sacrifices which would be offered once for all time. (Hebrews 10:4, 10).

The law was a schoolmaster to bring men to Christ. (Gal. 3:24). The worlds (ages) were made or esablished through Christ since it is in him that they have their meaning and ultimate realization.

This leads us back to John 1:1. Although Christ was the "chief corner stone" (1 Peter 2:6) in the divine purpose, "foreordained before the foundation of the world" (1 Peter 1:20), he was not formed or manifest until "these last times". (2 Peter 1:20). He had no personal existence until he was born of the virgin Mary. (Luke 1:31-35).

Everything God has ever created, whether it be the subtle serpent in the Garden of Eden or the massive Roman Empire, they have ALL pointed forward to the coming (and second coming) of Christ. This is the incredible wisdom and sheer depth of Scripture.

Christ's eventual existence has always been a part of God's divine intention; his place in God's Plan plainly laid out in the very first book of the Bible, culmanating in the last.

March 02, 2006 11:56 PM  
Blogger Ron said...

Obviously we are in disagreement about how "logos" is used in the verse. i disagree, it does infer personality in the way it is used here. Alot of people have a hard time understanding how Jesus could be God, and how the Holy Spirit is also God.. that problem exists due to the inability of the human mind to comprehend a being so powerful.
Its part of our educated ways that all things have to be completely explained and understood fully. God came down to us in the form of a man..No one has seen God in His pure existence. And i cant explain what that really means until i see Him one day face to face. (i use the term Gods face loosely) :-) Is there 3 Gods? no, just one. Do i want to use the word "trinity", no. its just another term to try to make it all easier to understand, but there is no way to truly do that. I dont see any reason discussing translations, we can argue that till the cows come home....You do have an interesting blog.

March 03, 2006 8:29 PM  
Blogger Jason said...

Ron, a few thoughts...

1. To not understand the true wording is to not understand the true meaning. This is why translation discussions are important and also where a tool such as a diglot comes in handy (a diaglot is an extremely literal translation of the Greek).

John 1:1 reads like this: In the beginning was the LOGOS, and the LOGOS was with GOD, and the LOGOS was God. This was in the Beginning with GOD. Through IT every thing was done; and without IT not even one thing was done, which has been done.

It's virtually impossible to maintain a sense of personality here without "he".

2. Explaining things by classifying them as "incomphrensible" is shaky ground to stand on. As soon as we find something in Scripture that doesn't fit the mould or is unexplained (e.g. the Trinity) we often claim it's a mystery or that the human mind isn't able to understand it. However, 2 Timothy says that ALL of Scripture is suitable for instruction and reproof.

EVERYTHING can be explained, proven and learnt using the Bible. If the Trinity or any other "doctrine" CAN'T be explained but yet is based on supposed Bible evidence, it'll have to be explained what God's purpose would be in encouraging this confusion and incomprehension and also how the 2 Timothy verse can still be true.

The Bible was written by men who were inspired by God. To say that we're not able to comprehend who God is to say that God did a poor job at describing Himself in Scripture.

I am unaware of anyone in Scripture ever claiming they were "confused" or couldn't "comprehend" who it was they were worshipping. Moses, Abraham, Lot, Joseph, David, Samuel, Samson, Gideon, these people all KNEW who their God was, they understood Him.

This understanding of who God is is a fundamental part of our beliefs. Leviticus 10 shows the danger in maintaining a level of ignorance or incomprehension that could easily be fixed by a little more patience and a little more reading of God's word.

We may have difficulty in wrapping our minds around the idea that God has existed forever but the inability to understand God ends there. God has "revealed" Himself to mankind using His Word.

March 06, 2006 9:44 AM  
Blogger Jason said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

March 10, 2006 11:43 AM  
Blogger Jason said...

A few more points to consider re: John 1:1:

1. Jesus is referred to as being the "Light" in vs. 4. Jesus is not referred to as being the "word" in vs. 1. Gen 1:3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. God created light in Genesis 1. God created Jesus in Mathew 1. Light didn't "pre-exist" any more than Jesus did.

2. Most Trinitarians believe that the word logos refers directly to Jesus Christ, so in most versions of John "logos" is capitalized and translated “Word” (some versions even write “Jesus Christ” in John 1:1). However, a study of the Greek word logos shows that it occurs more than 300 times in the New Testament, and in both the NIV and the KJV it is capitalized only 7 times (and even those versions disagree on exactly when to capitalize it). When a word that occurs more than 300 times is capitalized fewer than 10 times, it is obvious that when to capitalize and when not to capitalize is a translators’ decision based on their particular understanding of Scripture.

As it is used throughout Scripture, logos has a very wide range of meanings along two basic lines of thought. One is the mind and products of the mind like “reason,” (thus “logic” is related to logos) and the other is the expression of that reason as a “word,” “saying,” “command” etc. The Bible itself demonstrates the wide range of meaning logos has, and some of the ways it is translated in Scripture are: account, appearance, book, command, conversation, eloquence, flattery, grievance, heard, instruction, matter, message, ministry, news, proposal, question, reason, reasonable, reply, report, rule, rumor, said, say, saying, sentence, speaker, speaking, speech, stories, story, talk, talking, teaching, testimony, thing, things, this, truths, what, why, word and words.

Any good Greek lexicon will also show this wide range of meaning (the words in italics are translated from logos):

• speaking; words (Rom. 15:18, “what I have said and done”).
• a statement (Luke 20:20 - (NASB), “they might catch him in some statement).
• a question (Matt. 21:24, “I will also ask you one question”).
• preaching (1 Tim. 5:17, “especially those whose work is preaching and teaching).
• command (Gal. 5:14, “the entire law is summed up in a single command”).
• proverb; saying (John 4:37, “thus the saying, ‘One sows, and another reaps’”).
• message; instruction; proclamation (Luke 4:32, “his message had authority”).
• assertion; declaration; teaching (John 6:60, “this is a hard teaching”).
• the subject under discussion; matter (Acts 8:21, “you have no part or share in this ministry.” Acts 15:6 (NASB), “And the apostles... came together to look into this matter”).
• revelation from God (Matt. 15:6, “you nullify the Word of God”).
• God’s revelation spoken by His servants (Heb. 13:7, “leaders who spoke the Word of God”).
• a reckoning, an account (Matt. 12:36, “men will have to give account” on the day of judgment).
• an account or “matter” in a financial sense (Matt. 18:23, Phil. 4:15, “the matter of giving and receiving”).
• a reason; motive (Acts 10:29 - NASB), “I ask for what reason you have sent for me”).

The above list is not exhaustive, but it does show that logos has a very wide range of meaning. With all the definitions and ways logos can be translated, how can we decide which meaning of logos to choose for any one verse? How can it be determined what the logos in John 1:1 is? Any occurrence of logos has to be carefully studied in its context in order to get the proper meaning. **Please note that “Jesus Christ” is not a lexical definition of "logos"**. This verse does not say, “In the beginning was Jesus.” “The Word” is not synonymous with Jesus, or even “the Messiah.” The word logos in John 1:1 refers to God’s creative self-expression—His reason, purposes and plans, especially as they are brought into action. It refers to God’s self-expression, or communication, of Himself. This has come to pass through His creation (Rom. 1:19 and 20), and especially the heavens (Ps. 19). It has come through the spoken word of the prophets and through Scripture, the written Word. Most notably and finally, it has come into being through His Son (Heb. 1:1 and 2).

The logos is the expression of God, and is His communication of Himself, just as a “word” is an outward expression of a person’s thoughts. This outward expression of God has now occurred through His Son, and thus it is perfectly understandable why Jesus is called the “Word.” Jesus is an outward expression of God’s reason, wisdom, purpose and plan. For the same reason, we call revelation “a word from God” and the Bible “the Word of God.”

If we understand that the logos is God’s expression—His plan, purposes, reason and wisdom, it is clear that they were indeed with Him “in the beginning.” Scripture says that God’s wisdom was “from the beginning” (Prov. 8:23). It was very common in Hebrew writing to personify a concept such as wisdom. No ancient Jew reading Proverbs would think that God’s wisdom was a separate person, even though it is portrayed as one in verses like Proverbs 8:29 and 30: “…when He marked out the foundations of the earth, I [wisdom] was the craftsman at His side."

The logos, that is, the plan, purpose and wisdom of God, “became flesh” (came into concretion or physical existence) in Jesus Christ. Jesus is the “image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15) and His chief emissary, representative and agent. Because Jesus perfectly obeyed the Father, he represents everything that God could communicate about Himself in a human person. As such, Jesus could say, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father” (John 14:9). The fact that the logos “became” flesh shows that it did not exist that way before. There is no pre-existence for Jesus in this verse other than his figurative “existence” as the plan, purpose or wisdom of God for the salvation of man. The same is true with the “word” in writing. It had no literal pre-existence as a “spirit-book” somewhere in eternity past, but it came into being as God gave the revelation to people and they wrote it down.

3. There are elements of John 1:1 and other phrases in the introduction of John that not only refer back in time to God’s work in the original creation, but also foreshadow the work of Christ in the new administration and the new creation. It is not by accident that the Gospel begins with the same phrase as the book of Genesis. In Genesis 1:1, ‘In the beginning’ introduces the story of the old creation; here it introduces the story of the new creation. In both works of creation the agent is the Word of God.

March 10, 2006 12:12 PM  

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