Definition: The central doctrine of religions of Christendom. According to the Athanasian Creed, there are three divine Persons (the Father, the Son, the Holy Ghost), each said to be eternal, each said to be almighty, none greater or less than another, each said to be God, and yet together being but one God. Other statements of the dogma emphasize that these three “Persons” are not separate and distinct individuals but are three modes in which the divine essence exists. Thus some Trinitarians emphasize their belief that Jesus Christ is God, or that Jesus and the Holy Ghost are Jehovah. Not a Bible teaching.
What is the origin of the Trinity doctrine?
The New Encyclopædia Britannica says: “Neither the word Trinity, nor the explicit doctrine as such, appears in the New Testament, nor did Jesus and his followers intend to contradict the Shema in the Old Testament: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord’ (Deut. 6:4). . . . The doctrine developed gradually over several centuries and through many controversies. . . . By the end of the 4th century . . . the doctrine of the Trinity took substantially the form it has maintained ever since.”—(1976), Micropædia, Vol. X, p. 126.
The New Catholic Encyclopedia states: “The formulation ‘one God in three Persons’ was not solidly established, certainly not fully assimilated into Christian life and its profession of faith, prior to the end of the 4th century. But it is precisely this formulation that has first claim to the title the Trinitarian dogma. Among the Apostolic Fathers, there had been nothing even remotely approaching such a mentality or perspective.”—(1967), Vol. XIV, p. 299.
In The Encyclopedia Americana we read: “Christianity derived from Judaism and Judaism was strictly Unitarian [believing that God is one person]. The road which led from Jerusalem to Nicea was scarcely a straight one. Fourth century Trinitarianism did not reflect accurately early Christian teaching regarding the nature of God; it was, on the contrary, a deviation from this teaching.”—(1956), Vol. XXVII, p. 294L.
According to the Nouveau Dictionnaire Universel, “The Platonic trinity, itself merely a rearrangement of older trinities dating back to earlier peoples, appears to be the rational philosophic trinity of attributes that gave birth to the three hypostases or divine persons taught by the Christian churches. . . . This Greek philosopher’s [Plato, fourth century B.C.E.] conception of the divine trinity . . . can be found in all the ancient [pagan] religions.”—(Paris, 1865-1870), edited by M. Lachâtre, Vol. 2, p. 1467.
John L. McKenzie, S.J., in his Dictionary of the Bible, says: “The trinity of persons within the unity of nature is defined in terms of ‘person’ and ‘nature’ which are G[ree]k philosophical terms; actually the terms do not appear in the Bible. The trinitarian definitions arose as the result of long controversies in which these terms and others such as ‘essence’ and ‘substance’ were erroneously applied to God by some theologians.”—(New York, 1965), p. 899.
Even though, as Trinitarians acknowledge, neither the word “Trinity” nor a statement of the Trinitarian dogma is found in the Bible, are the concepts that are embodied in that dogma found there?
Does the Bible teach that the “Holy Spirit” is a person?
Some individual texts that refer to the holy spirit (“Holy Ghost,” KJ) might seem to indicate personality. For example, the holy spirit is referred to as a helper (Greek, pa·ra′kle·tos; “Comforter,” KJ; “Advocate,” JB, NE) that ‘teaches,’ ‘bears witness,’ ‘speaks’ and ‘hears.’ (John 14:16, 17, 26; 15:26; 16:13) But other texts say that people were “filled” with holy spirit, that some were ‘baptized’ with it or “anointed” with it. (Luke 1:41; Matt. 3:11; Acts 10:38) These latter references to holy spirit definitely do not fit a person. To understand what the Bible as a whole teaches, all these texts must be considered. What is the reasonable conclusion? That the first texts cited here employ a figure of speech personifying God’s holy spirit, his active force, as the Bible also personifies wisdom, sin, death, water, and blood. (See also pages 380, 381, under the heading “Spirit.”)
The Holy Scriptures tell us the personal name of the Father—Jehovah. They inform us that the Son is Jesus Christ. But nowhere in the Scriptures is a personal name applied to the holy spirit.
Acts 7:55, 56 reports that Stephen was given a vision of heaven in which he saw “Jesus standing at God’s right hand.” But he made no mention of seeing the holy spirit. (See also Revelation 7:10; 22:1, 3.)
The New Catholic Encyclopedia admits: “The majority of N[ew] T[estament] texts reveal God’s spirit as something, not someone; this is especially seen in the parallelism between the spirit and the power of God.” (1967, Vol. XIII, p. 575) It also reports: “The Apologists [Greek Christian writers of the second century] spoke too haltingly of the Spirit; with a measure of anticipation, one might say too impersonally.”—Vol. XIV, p. 296.
Does the Bible agree with those who teach that the Father and the Son are not separate and distinct individuals?
Matt. 26:39, RS: “Going a little farther he [Jesus Christ] fell on his face and prayed, ‘My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.’” (If the Father and the Son were not distinct individuals, such a prayer would have been meaningless. Jesus would have been praying to himself, and his will would of necessity have been the Father’s will.)
John 8:17, 18, RS: “[Jesus answered the Jewish Pharisees:] In your law it is written that the testimony of two men is true; I bear witness to myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness to me.” (So, Jesus definitely spoke of himself as being an individual separate and distinct from the Father.)
See also pages 197, 198, under “Jehovah.”
Does the Bible teach that all who are said to be part of the Trinity are eternal, none having a beginning?
Col. 1:15, 16, RS: “He [Jesus Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation; for in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth.” In what sense is Jesus Christ “the first-born of all creation”? (1) Trinitarians say that “first-born” here means prime, most excellent, most distinguished; thus Christ would be understood to be, not part of creation, but the most distinguished in relation to those who were created. If that is so, and if the Trinity doctrine is true, why are the Father and the holy spirit not also said to be the firstborn of all creation? But the Bible applies this expression only to the Son. According to the customary meaning of “firstborn,” it indicates that Jesus is the eldest in Jehovah’s family of sons. (2) Before Colossians 1:15, the expression “the firstborn of” occurs upwards of 30 times in the Bible, and in each instance that it is applied to living creatures the same meaning applies—the firstborn is part of the group. “The firstborn of Israel” is one of the sons of Israel; “the firstborn of Pharaoh” is one of Pharaoh’s family; “the firstborn of beast” are themselves animals. What, then, causes some to ascribe a different meaning to it at Colossians 1:15? Is it Bible usage or is it a belief to which they already hold and for which they seek proof? (3) Does Colossians 1:16, 17 (RS) exclude Jesus from having been created, when it says “in him all things were created . . . all things were created through him and for him”? The Greek word here rendered “all things” is pan′ta, an inflected form of pas. At Luke 13:2, RS renders this “all . . . other”; JB reads “any other”; NE says “anyone else.” (See also Luke 21:29 in NE and Philippians 2:21 in JB.) In harmony with everything else that the Bible says regarding the Son, NW assigns the same meaning to pan′ta at Colossians 1:16, 17 so that it reads, in part, “by means of him all other things were created . . . All other things have been created through him and for him.” Thus he is shown to be a created being, part of the creation produced by God.
Rev. 1:1; 3:14, RS: “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him . . . ‘And to the angel of the church in La-odicea write: “The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning [Greek, ar·khe′] of God’s creation.”’” (KJ, Dy, CC, and NW, as well as others, read similarly.) Is that rendering correct? Some take the view that what is meant is that the Son was ‘the beginner of God’s creation,’ that he was its ‘ultimate source.’ But Liddell and Scott’s Greek-English Lexicon lists “beginning” as its first meaning of ar·khe′. (Oxford, 1968, p. 252) The logical conclusion is that the one being quoted at Revelation 3:14 is a creation, the first of God’s creations, that he had a beginning. Compare Proverbs 8:22, where, as many Bible commentators agree, the Son is referred to as wisdom personified. According to RS, NE, and JB, the one there speaking is said to be “created.”)
Prophetically, with reference to the Messiah, Micah 5:2 (KJ) says his “goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.” Dy reads: “his going forth is from the beginning, from the days of eternity.” Does that make him the same as God? It is noteworthy that, instead of saying “days of eternity,” RS renders the Hebrew as “ancient days”; JB, “days of old”; NW, “days of time indefinite.” Viewed in the light of Revelation 3:14, discussed above, Micah 5:2 does not prove that Jesus was without a beginning.
Does the Bible teach that none of those who are said to be included in the Trinity is greater or less than another, that all are equal, that all are almighty?
Mark 13:32, RS: “Of that day or that hour no ones knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Of course, that would not be the case if Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were coequal, comprising one Godhead. And if, as some suggest, the Son was limited by his human nature from knowing, the question remains, Why did the Holy Spirit not know?)
Matt. 20:20-23, RS: “The mother of the sons of Zebedee . . . said to him [Jesus], ‘Command that these two sons of mine may sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.’ But Jesus answered, . . . ‘You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.’” (How strange, if, as claimed, Jesus is God! Was Jesus here merely answering according to his “human nature”? If, as Trinitarians say, Jesus was truly “God-man”—both God and man, not one or the other—would it truly be consistent to resort to such an explanation? Does not Matthew 20:23 rather show that the Son is not equal to the Father, that the Father has reserved some prerogatives for himself?)
Matt. 12:31, 32, RS: “Every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever says a word against the Son of man will be forgiven; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.” (If the Holy Spirit were a person and were God, this text would flatly contradict the Trinity doctrine, because it would mean that in some way the Holy Spirit was greater than the Son. Instead, what Jesus said shows that the Father, to whom the “Spirit” belonged, is greater than Jesus, the Son of man.)
John 14:28, RS: “[Jesus said:] If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I go to the Father; for the Father is greater than I.”
1 Cor. 11:3, RS: “I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a woman is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.” (Clearly, then, Christ is not God, and God is of superior rank to Christ. It should be noted that this was written about 55 C.E., some 22 years after Jesus returned to heaven. So the truth here stated applies to the relationship between God and Christ in heaven.)
1 Cor. 15:27, 28 RS: “‘God has put all things in subjection under his [Jesus’] feet.’ But when it says, ‘All things are put in subjection under him,’ it is plain that he is excepted who put all things under him. When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things under him, that God may be everything to every one.”
The Hebrew word Shad·dai′ and the Greek word Pan·to·kra′tor are both translated “Almighty.” Both original-language words are repeatedly applied to Jehovah, the Father. (Ex. 6:3; Rev. 19:6) Neither expression is ever applied to either the Son or the holy spirit.
Does the Bible teach that each of those said to be part of the Trinity is God?
Jesus said in prayer: “Father, . . . this is eternal life, that they know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.” (John 17:1-3, RS; italics added.) (Most translations here use the expression “the only true God” with reference to the Father. NE reads “who alone art truly God.” He cannot be “the only true God,” the one “who alone [is] truly God,” if there are two others who are God to the same degree as he is, can he? Any others referred to as “gods” must be either false or merely a reflection of the true God.)
1 Cor. 8:5, 6, RS: “Although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many ‘gods’ and many ‘lords’—yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.” (This presents the Father as the “one God” of Christians and as being in a class distinct from Jesus Christ.)
1 Pet. 1:3, RS: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!” (Repeatedly, even following Jesus’ ascension to heaven, the Scriptures refer to the Father as “the God” of Jesus Christ. At John 20:17, following Jesus’ resurrection, he himself spoke of the Father as “my God.” Later, when in heaven, as recorded at Revelation 3:12, he again used the same expression. But never in the Bible is the Father reported to refer to the Son as “my God,” nor does either the Father or the Son refer to the holy spirit as “my God.”)
For comments on scriptures used by some in an effort to prove that Christ is God, see pages 212-216, under the heading “Jesus Christ.”
In Theological Investigations, Karl Rahner, S.J., admits: “Θεός [God] is still never used of the Spirit,” and: “ὁ θεός [literally, the God] is never used in the New Testament to speak of the πνεῦμα ἅγιον [holy spirit].”—(Baltimore, Md.; 1961), translated from German, Vol. I, pp. 138, 143.
Do any of the scriptures that are used by Trinitarians to support their belief provide a solid basis for that dogma?
A person who is really seeking to know the truth about God is not going to search the Bible hoping to find a text that he can construe as fitting what he already believes. He wants to know what God’s Word itself says. He may find some texts that he feels can be read in more than one way, but when these are compared with other Biblical statements on the same subject their meaning will become clear. It should be noted at the outset that most of the texts used as “proof” of the Trinity actually mention only two persons, not three; so even if the Trinitarian explanation of the texts were correct, these would not prove that the Bible teaches the Trinity. Consider the following:
(Unless otherwise indicated, all the texts quoted in the following section are from RS.)
Texts in which a title that belongs to Jehovah is applied to Jesus Christ or is claimed to apply to Jesus
Alpha and Omega: To whom does this title properly belong? (1) At Revelation 1:8, its owner is said to be God, the Almighty. In verse 11 according to KJ, that title is applied to one whose description thereafter shows him to be Jesus Christ. But scholars recognize the reference to Alpha and Omega in verse 11 to be spurious, and so it does not appear in RS, NE, JB, NAB, Dy. (2) Many translations of Revelation into Hebrew recognize that the one described in verse 8 is Jehovah, and so they restore the personal name of God there. See NW, 1984 Reference edition. (3) Revelation 21:6, 7 indicates that Christians who are spiritual conquerors are to be ‘sons’ of the one known as the Alpha and the Omega. That is never said of the relationship of spirit-anointed Christians to Jesus Christ. Jesus spoke of them as his ‘brothers.’ (Heb. 2:11; Matt. 12:50; 25:40) But those ‘brothers’ of Jesus are referred to as “sons of God.” (Gal. 3:26; 4:6) (4) At Revelation 22:12, TEV inserts the name Jesus, so the reference to Alpha and Omega in verse 13 is made to appear to apply to him. But the name Jesus does not appear there in Greek, and other translations do not include it. (5) At Revelation 22:13, the Alpha and Omega is also said to be “the first and the last,” which expression is applied to Jesus at Revelation 1:17, 18. Similarly, the expression “apostle” is applied both to Jesus Christ and to certain ones of his followers. But that does not prove that they are the same person or are of equal rank, does it? (Heb. 3:1) So the evidence points to the conclusion that the title “Alpha and Omega” applies to Almighty God, the Father, not to the Son.
Savior: Repeatedly the Scriptures refer to God as Savior. At Isaiah 43:11 God even says: “Besides me there is no savior.” Since Jesus is also referred to as Savior, are God and Jesus the same? Not at all. Titus 1:3, 4 speaks of “God our Savior,” and then of both “God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.” So, both persons are saviors. Jude 25 shows the relationship, saying: “God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Italics added.) (See also Acts 13:23.) At Judges 3:9, the same Hebrew word (moh·shi′a‛, rendered “savior” or “deliverer”) that is used at Isaiah 43:11 is applied to Othniel, a judge in Israel, but that certainly did not make Othniel Jehovah, did it? A reading of Isaiah 43:1-12 shows that verse 11 means that Jehovah alone was the One who provided salvation, or deliverance, for Israel; that salvation did not come from any of the gods of the surrounding nations.
God: At Isaiah 43:10 Jehovah says: “Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me.” Does this mean that, because Jesus Christ is prophetically called “Mighty God” at Isaiah 9:6, Jesus must be Jehovah? Again, the context answers, No! None of the idolatrous Gentile nations formed a god before Jehovah, because no one existed before Jehovah. Nor would they at a future time form any real, live god that was able to prophesy. (Isa. 46:9, 10) But that does not mean that Jehovah never caused to exist anyone who is properly referred to as a god. (Ps. 82:1, 6; John 1:1, NW) At Isaiah 10:21 Jehovah is referred to as “mighty God,” just as Jesus is in Isaiah 9:6; but only Jehovah is ever called “God Almighty.”—Gen. 17:1.
If a certain title or descriptive phrase is found in more than one location in the Scriptures, it should never hastily be concluded that it must always refer to the same person. Such reasoning would lead to the conclusion that Nebuchadnezzar was Jesus Christ, because both were called “king of kings” (Dan. 2:37; Rev. 17:14); and that Jesus’ disciples were actually Jesus Christ, because both were called “the light of the world.” (Matt. 5:14; John 8:12) We should always consider the context and any other instances in the Bible where the same expression occurs.
Application to Jesus Christ by inspired Bible writers of passages from the Hebrew Scriptures that clearly apply to Jehovah
Why does John 1:23 quote Isaiah 40:3 and apply it to what John the Baptizer did in preparing the way for Jesus Christ, when Isaiah 40:3 is clearly discussing preparing the way before Jehovah? Because Jesus represented his Father. He came in his Father’s name and had the assurance that his Father was always with him because he did the things pleasing to his Father.—John 5:43; 8:29.
Why does Hebrews 1:10-12 quote Psalm 102:25-27 and apply it to the Son, when the psalm says that it is addressed to God? Because the Son is the one through whom God performed the creative works there described by the psalmist. (See Colossians 1:15, 16; Proverbs 8:22, 27-30.) It should be observed in Hebrews 1:5b that a quotation is made from 2 Samuel 7:14 and applied to the Son of God. Although that text had its first application to Solomon, the later application of it to Jesus Christ does not mean that Solomon and Jesus are the same. Jesus is “greater than Solomon” and carries out a work foreshadowed by Solomon.—Luke 11:31.
Scriptures that mention together the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit
Matthew 28:19 and 2 Corinthians 13:14 are instances of this. Neither of these texts says that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are coequal or coeternal or that all are God. The Scriptural evidence already presented on pages 408-412 argues against reading such thoughts into the texts.
McClintock and Strong’s Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature, though advocating the Trinity doctrine, acknowledges regarding Matthew 28:18-20: “This text, however, taken by itself, would not prove decisively either the personality of the three subjects mentioned, or their equality or divinity.” (1981 reprint, Vol. X, p. 552) Regarding other texts that also mention the three together, this Cyclopedia admits that, taken by themselves, they are “insufficient” to prove the Trinity. (Compare 1 Timothy 5:21, where God and Christ and the angels are mentioned together.)
Texts in which the plural form of nouns is applied to God in the Hebrew Scriptures
At Genesis 1:1 the title “God” is translated from ’Elo·him′, which is plural in Hebrew. Trinitarians construe this to be an indication of the Trinity. They also explain Deuteronomy 6:4 to imply the unity of members of the Trinity when it says, “The LORD our God [from ’Elo·him′] is one LORD.”
The plural form of the noun here in Hebrew is the plural of majesty or excellence. (See NAB, St. Joseph Edition, Bible Dictionary, p. 330; also, New Catholic Encyclopedia, 1967, Vol. V, p. 287.) It conveys no thought of plurality of persons within a godhead. In similar fashion, at Judges 16:23 when reference is made to the false god Dagon, a form of the title ’elo·him′ is used; the accompanying verb is singular, showing that reference is to just the one god. At Genesis 42:30, Joseph is spoken of as the “lord” (’adho·neh′, the plural of excellence) of Egypt.
The Greek language does not have a ‘plural of majesty or excellence.’ So, at Genesis 1:1 the translators of LXX used ho The·os′ (God, singular) as the equivalent of ’Elo·him′. At Mark 12:29, where a reply of Jesus is reproduced in which he quoted Deuteronomy 6:4, the Greek singular ho The·os′ is similarly used.
At Deuteronomy 6:4, the Hebrew text contains the Tetragrammaton twice, and so should more properly read: “Jehovah our God is one Jehovah.” (NW) The nation of Israel, to whom that was stated, did not believe in the Trinity. The Babylonians and the Egyptians worshiped triads of gods, but it was made clear to Israel that Jehovah is different.
Texts from which a person might draw more than one conclusion, depending on the Bible translation used
If a passage can grammatically be translated in more than one way, what is the correct rendering? One that is in agreement with the rest of the Bible. If a person ignores other portions of the Bible and builds his belief around a favorite rendering of a particular verse, then what he believes really reflects, not the Word of God, but his own ideas and perhaps those of another imperfect human.
RS reads: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.” (KJ, Dy, JB, NAB use similar wording.) However, NW reads: “In the beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god. This one was in the beginning with God.”
Which translation of John 1:1, 2 agrees with the context? John 1:18 says: “No one has ever seen God.” Verse 14 clearly says that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us . . . we have beheld his glory.” Also, verses 1, 2 say that in the beginning he was “with God.” Can one be with someone and at the same time be that person? At John 17:3, Jesus addresses the Father as “the only true God”; so, Jesus as “a god” merely reflects his Father’s divine qualities.—Heb. 1:3.
Is the rendering “a god” consistent with the rules of Greek grammar? Some reference books argue strongly that the Greek text must be translated, “The Word was God.” But not all agree. In his article “Qualitative Anarthrous Predicate Nouns: Mark 15:39 and John 1:1,” Philip B. Harner said that such clauses as the one in John 1:1, “with an anarthrous predicate preceding the verb, are primarily qualitative in meaning. They indicate that the logos has the nature of theos.” He suggests: “Perhaps the clause could be translated, ‘the Word had the same nature as God.’” (Journal of Biblical Literature, 1973, pp. 85, 87) Thus, in this text, the fact that the word the·os′ in its second occurrence is without the definite article (ho) and is placed before the verb in the sentence in Greek is significant. Interestingly, translators that insist on rendering John 1:1, “The Word was God,” do not hesitate to use the indefinite article (a, an) in their rendering of other passages where a singular anarthrous predicate noun occurs before the verb. Thus at John 6:70, JB and KJ both refer to Judas Iscariot as “a devil,” and at John 9:17 they describe Jesus as “a prophet.”
John J. McKenzie, S.J., in his Dictionary of the Bible, says: “Jn 1:1 should rigorously be translated ‘the word was with the God [= the Father], and the word was a divine being.’”—(Brackets are his. Published with nihil obstat and imprimatur.) (New York, 1965), p. 317.
In harmony with the above, AT reads: “the Word was divine”; Mo, “the Logos was divine”; NTIV, “the word was a god.” In his German translation Ludwig Thimme expresses it in this way: “God of a sort the Word was.” Referring to the Word (who became Jesus Christ) as “a god” is consistent with the use of that term in the rest of the Scriptures. For example, at Psalm 82:1-6 human judges in Israel were referred to as “gods” (Hebrew, ’elo·him′; Greek, the·oi′, at John 10:34) because they were representatives of Jehovah and were to speak his law.
See also NW appendix, 1984 Reference edition, p. 1579.
RS reads: “Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am [Greek, e·go′ ei·mi′].’” (NE, KJ, TEV, JB, NAB all read “I am,” some even using capital letters to convey the idea of a title. Thus they endeavor to connect the expression with Exodus 3:14, where, according to their rendering, God refers to himself by the title “I Am.”) However, in NW the latter part of John 8:58 reads: “Before Abraham came into existence, I have been.” (The same idea is conveyed by the wording in AT, Mo, CBW, and SE.)
Which rendering agrees with the context? The question of the Jews (verse 57) to which Jesus was replying had to do with age, not identity. Jesus’ reply logically dealt with his age, the length of his existence. Interestingly, no effort is ever made to apply e·go′ ei·mi′ as a title to the holy spirit.
Says A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research, by A. T. Robertson: “The verb [ei·mi′] . . . Sometimes it does express existence as a predicate like any other verb, as in [e·go′ ei·mi′] (Jo. 8:58).”—Nashville, Tenn.; 1934, p. 394.
See also NW appendix, 1984 Reference edition, pp. 1582, 1583.
JB reads: “Be on your guard for yourselves and for all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you the overseers, to feed the Church of God which he bought with his own blood.” (KJ, Dy, NAB use similar wording.) However, in NW the latter part of the verse reads: “the blood of his own [Son].” (TEV reads similarly. Although the 1953 printing of RS reads “with his own blood,” the 1971 edition reads “with the blood of his own Son.” Ro and Da simply read “the blood of his own.”)
Which rendering(s) agree with 1 John 1:7, which says: “The blood of Jesus his [God’s] Son cleanses us from all sin”? (See also Revelation 1:4-6.) As stated in John 3:16, did God send his only-begotten Son, or did he himself come as a man, so that we might have life? It was the blood, not of God, but of his Son that was poured out.
See also NW appendix, 1984 Reference edition, p. 1580.
JB reads: “They are descended from the patriarchs and from their flesh and blood came Christ who is above all, God for ever blessed! Amen.” (KJ, Dy read similarly.) However, in NW the latter part of the verse reads: “from whom the Christ sprang according to the flesh: God, who is over all, be blessed forever. Amen.” (RS, NE, TEV, NAB, Mo all use wording similar to NW.)
Is this verse saying that Christ is “over all” and that he is therefore God? Or does it refer to God and Christ as distinct individuals and say that God is “over all”? Which rendering of Romans 9:5 agrees with Romans 15:5, 6, which first distinguishes God from Christ Jesus and then urges the reader to “glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ”? (See also 2 Corinthians 1:3 and Ephesians 1:3.) Consider what follows in Romans chapter 9. Verses 6-13 show that the outworking of God’s purpose depends not on inheritance according to the flesh but on the will of God. Verses 14-18 refer to God’s message to Pharaoh, as recorded at Exodus 9:16, to highlight the fact that God is over all. In verses 19-24 God’s superiority is further illustrated by an analogy with a potter and the clay vessels that he makes. How appropriate, then, in verse 5, the expression: “God, who is over all, be blessed forever. Amen”!—NW.
The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology states: “Rom. 9:5 is disputed. . . . It would be easy, and linguistically perfectly possible to refer the expression to Christ. The verse would then read, ‘Christ who is God over all, blessed for ever. Amen.’ Even so, Christ would not be equated absolutely with God, but only described as a being of divine nature, for the word theos has no article. . . . The much more probable explanation is that the statement is a doxology directed to God.”—(Grand Rapids, Mich.; 1976), translated from German, Vol. 2, p. 80.
See also NW appendix, 1984 Reference edition, pp. 1580, 1581.
KJ reads: “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God.” (Dy has the same wording. JB reads: “he did not cling to his equality with God.”) However, in NW the latter portion of that passage reads: “who, although he was existing in God’s form, gave no consideration to a seizure [Greek, har·pag·mon′], namely, that he should be equal to God.” (RS, NE, TEV, NAB convey the same thought.)
Which thought agrees with the context? Verse 5 counsels Christians to imitate Christ in the matter here being discussed. Could they be urged to consider it “not robbery,” but their right, “to be equal with God”? Surely not! However, they can imitate one who “gave no consideration to a seizure, namely, that he should be equal to God.” (NW) (Compare Genesis 3:5.) Such a translation also agrees with Jesus Christ himself, who said: “The Father is greater than I.”—John 14:28.
The Expositor’s Greek Testament says: “We cannot find any passage where [har·pa′zo] or any of its derivatives [including har·pag·mon′] has the sense of ‘holding in possession,’ ‘retaining’. It seems invariably to mean ‘seize,’ ‘snatch violently’. Thus it is not permissible to glide from the true sense ‘grasp at’ into one which is totally different, ‘hold fast.’”—(Grand Rapids, Mich.; 1967), edited by W. Robertson Nicoll, Vol. III, pp. 436, 437.
KJ reads: “In him [Christ] dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead [Greek, the·o′te·tos] bodily.” (A similar thought is conveyed by the renderings in NE, RS, JB, NAB, Dy.) However, NW reads: “It is in him that all the fullness of the divine quality dwells bodily.” (AT, We, and CKW read “God’s nature,” instead of “Godhead.” Compare 2 Peter 1:4.)
Admittedly, not everyone offers the same interpretation of Colossians 2:9. But what is in agreement with the rest of the inspired letter to the Colossians? Did Christ have in himself something that is his because he is God, part of a Trinity? Or is “the fullness” that dwells in him something that became his because of the decision of someone else? Colossians 1:19 (KJ, Dy) says that all fullness dwelt in Christ because it “pleased the Father” for this to be the case. NE says it was “by God’s own choice.”
Consider the immediate context of Colossians 2:9: In verse 8, readers are warned against being misled by those who advocate philosophy and human traditions. They are also told that in Christ “are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” and are urged to “live in him” and to be “rooted and built up in him and established in the faith.” (Verses 3, 6, 7) It is in him, and not in the originators or the teachers of human philosophy, that a certain precious “fulness” dwells. Was the apostle Paul there saying that the “fulness” that was in Christ made Christ God himself? Not according to Colossians 3:1, where Christ is said to be “seated at the right hand of God.”—See KJ, Dy, TEV, NAB.
According to Liddell and Scott’s Greek-English Lexicon, the·o′tes (the nominative form, from which the·o′te·tos is derived) means “divinity, divine nature.” (Oxford, 1968, p. 792) Being truly “divinity,” or of “divine nature,” does not make Jesus as the Son of God coequal and coeternal with the Father, any more than the fact that all humans share “humanity” or “human nature” makes them coequal or all the same age.
RS reads: “Awaiting our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” (Similar wording is found in NE, TEV, JB.) However, NW reads: “while we wait for the happy hope and glorious manifestation of the great God and of the Savior of us, Christ Jesus.” (NAB has a similar rendering.)
Which translation agrees with Titus 1:4, which refers to “God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior”? Although the Scriptures also refer to God as being a Savior, this text clearly differentiates between him and Christ Jesus, the one through whom God provides salvation.
Some argue that Titus 2:13 indicates that Christ is both God and Savior. Interestingly, RS, NE, TEV, JB render Titus 2:13 in a way that might be construed as allowing for that view, but they do not follow the same rule in their translation of 2 Thessalonians 1:12. Henry Alford, in The Greek Testament, states: “I would submit that [a rendering that clearly differentiates God and Christ, at Titus 2:13] satisfies all the grammatical requirements of the sentence: that it is both structurally and contextually more probable, and more agreeable to the Apostle’s way of writing.”—(Boston, 1877), Vol. III, p. 421.
See also NW appendix, 1984 Reference edition, pp. 1581, 1582.
RS reads: “Of the Son he says, ‘Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever.’” (KJ, NE, TEV, Dy, JB, NAB have similar renderings.) However, NW reads: “But with reference to the Son: ‘God is your throne forever and ever.’” (AT, Mo, TC, By convey the same idea.)
Which rendering is harmonious with the context? The preceding verses say that God is speaking, not that he is being addressed; and the following verse uses the expression “God, thy God,” showing that the one addressed is not the Most High God but is a worshiper of that God. Hebrews 1:8 quotes from Psalm 45:6, which originally was addressed to a human king of Israel. Obviously, the Bible writer of this psalm did not think that this human king was Almighty God. Rather, Psalm 45:6, in RS, reads “Your divine throne.” (NE says, “Your throne is like God’s throne.” JP [verse 7]: “Thy throne given of God.”) Solomon, who was possibly the king originally addressed in Psalm 45, was said to sit “upon Jehovah’s throne.” (1 Chron. 29:23, NW) In harmony with the fact that God is the “throne,” or Source and Upholder of Christ’s kingship, Daniel 7:13, 14 and Luke 1:32 show that God confers such authority on him.
Hebrews 1:8, 9 quotes from Psalm 45:6, 7, concerning which the Bible scholar B. F. Westcott states: “The LXX. admits of two renderings: [ho the·os′] can be taken as a vocative in both cases (Thy throne, O God, . . . therefore, O God, Thy God . . . ) or it can be taken as the subject (or the predicate) in the first case (God is Thy throne, or Thy throne is God . . . ), and in apposition to [ho the·os′ sou] in the second case (Therefore God, even Thy God . . . ). . . . It is scarcely possible that [’Elo·him′] in the original can be addressed to the king. The presumption therefore is against the belief that [ho the·os′] is a vocative in the LXX. Thus on the whole it seems best to adopt in the first clause the rendering: God is Thy throne (or, Thy throne is God), that is ‘Thy kingdom is founded upon God, the immovable Rock.’”—The Epistle to the Hebrews (London, 1889), pp. 25, 26.
KJ reads: “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.” (Dy also includes this Trinitarian passage.) However, NW does not include the words “in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth.” (RS, NE, TEV, JB, NAB also leave out the Trinitarian passage.)
Regarding this Trinitarian passage, textual critic F. H. A. Scrivener wrote: “We need not hesitate to declare our conviction that the disputed words were not written by St. John: that they were originally brought into Latin copies in Africa from the margin, where they had been placed as a pious and orthodox gloss on ver. 8: that from the Latin they crept into two or three late Greek codices, and thence into the printed Greek text, a place to which they had no rightful claim.”—A Plain Introduction to the Criticism of the New Testament (Cambridge, 1883, third ed.), p. 654.
See also footnote on these verses in JB, and NW appendix, 1984 Reference edition, p. 1580.
Other scriptures that are said by Trinitarians to express elements of their dogma
Notice that the first of these texts refers to only the Son; the other refers to both Father and Son; neither refers to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and says that they comprise one God.
By what he here said, did Jesus mean that he would resurrect himself from the dead? Does that mean that Jesus is God, because Acts 2:32 says, “This Jesus God raised up”? Not at all. Such a view would conflict with Galatians 1:1, which ascribes the resurrection of Jesus to the Father, not to the Son. Using a similar mode of expression, at Luke 8:48 Jesus is quoted as saying to a woman: “Your faith has made you well.” Did she heal herself? No; it was power from God through Christ that healed her because she had faith. (Luke 8:46; Acts 10:38) Likewise, by his perfect obedience as a human, Jesus provided the moral basis for the Father to raise him from the dead, thus acknowledging Jesus as God’s Son. Because of Jesus’ faithful course of life, it could properly be said that Jesus himself was responsible for his resurrection.
Says A. T. Robertson in Word Pictures in the New Testament: “Recall [John] 2:19 where Jesus said: ‘And in three days I will raise it up.’ He did not mean that he will raise himself from the dead independently of the Father as the active agent (Rom. 8:11).”—(New York, 1932), Vol. V, p. 183.
When saying, “I and the Father are one,” did Jesus mean that they were equal? Some Trinitarians say that he did. But at John 17:21, 22, Jesus prayed regarding his followers: “That they may all be one,” and he added, “that they may be one even as we are one.” He used the same Greek word (hen) for “one” in all these instances. Obviously, Jesus’ disciples do not all become part of the Trinity. But they do come to share a oneness of purpose with the Father and the Son, the same sort of oneness that unites God and Christ.
In what position does belief in the Trinity put those who cling to it?
It puts them in a very dangerous position. The evidence is indisputable that the dogma of the Trinity is not found in the Bible, nor is it in harmony with what the Bible teaches. (See the preceding pages.) It grossly misrepresents the true God. Yet, Jesus Christ said: “The hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:23, 24, RS) Thus Jesus made it clear that those whose worship is not ‘in truth,’ not in harmony with the truth set out in God’s own Word, are not “true worshipers.” To Jewish religious leaders of the first century, Jesus said: “For the sake of your tradition, you have made void the word of God. You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’” (Matt. 15:6-9, RS) That applies with equal force to those in Christendom today who advocate human traditions in preference to the clear truths of the Bible.
Regarding the Trinity, the Athanasian Creed (in English) says that its members are “incomprehensible.” Teachers of the doctrine often state that it is a “mystery.” Obviously such a Trinitarian God is not the one that Jesus had in mind when he said: “We worship what we know.” (John 4:22, RS) Do you really know the God you worship?
Serious questions confront each one of us: Do we sincerely love the truth? Do we really want an approved relationship with God? Not everyone genuinely loves the truth. Many have put having the approval of their relatives and associates above love of the truth and of God. (2 Thess. 2:9-12; John 5:39-44) But, as Jesus said in earnest prayer to his heavenly Father: “This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.” (John 17:3, NW) And Psalm 144:15 truthfully states: “Happy is the people whose God is Jehovah!”—NW.
When Someone Says—
‘Do you believe in the Trinity?’
You might reply: ‘That is a very popular belief in our time. But did you know that this is not what was taught by Jesus and his disciples? So, we worship the One that Jesus said to worship.’ Then perhaps add: (1) ‘When Jesus was teaching, here is the commandment that he said was greatest . . . (Mark 12:28-30).’ (2) ‘Jesus never claimed to be equal to God. He said . . . (John 14:28).’ (3) ‘Then what is the origin of the Trinity doctrine? Notice what well-known encyclopedias say about that. (See pages 405, 406.)’
Or you could say: ‘No, I do not. You see, there are Bible texts that I could never fit in with that belief. Here is one of them. (Matt. 24:36) Perhaps you can explain it to me.’ Then perhaps add: (1) ‘If the Son is equal to the Father, how is it that the Father knows things that the Son does not?’ If they answer that this was true only regarding his human nature, then ask: (2) ‘But why does the holy spirit not know?’ (If the person shows a sincere interest in the truth, show him what the Scriptures do say about God. (Ps. 83:18; John 4:23, 24)’
Another possibility: ‘We do believe in Jesus Christ but not in the Trinity. Why? Because we believe what the apostle Peter believed about Christ. Notice what he said . . . (Matt. 16:15-17).’
An additional suggestion: ‘I find that not everyone has the same thing in mind when he refers to the Trinity. Perhaps I could answer your question better if I knew what you mean.’ Then perhaps add: ‘I appreciate that explanation. But what I believe is only what the Bible teaches. Have you ever seen the word “Trinity” in the Bible? . . . (Refer to the concordance in your Bible.) But is Christ referred to in the Bible? . . . Yes, and we believe in him. Notice here in the concordance under “Christ” one of the references is to Matthew 16:16. (Read it.) That is what I believe.’
Or you might answer (if the person draws particular attention to John 1:1): ‘I am acquainted with that verse. In some Bible translations it says that Jesus is “God,” and others say that he is “a god.” Why is that?’ (1) ‘Could it be because the next verse says that he was “with God”?’ (2) ‘Might it also be because of what is found here in John 1:18?’ (3) ‘Have you ever wondered whether Jesus himself worships someone as God? (John 20:17)’
‘Do you believe in the divinity of Christ?’
You might reply: ‘Yes, I certainly do. But perhaps I do not have in mind the same thing that you do when you refer to “the divinity of Christ.”’ Then perhaps add: (1) ‘Why do I say that? Well, at Isaiah 9:6 Jesus Christ is described as “Mighty God,” but only his Father is ever referred to in the Bible as the Almighty God.’ (2) ‘And notice that at John 17:3 Jesus speaks of his Father as “the only true God.” So, at most, Jesus is just a reflection of the true God.’ (3) ‘What is required on our part to be pleasing to God? (John 4:23, 24)’