More than two billion people profess to be Christian. Most belong to churches that teach the Trinity—the doctrine that the Father, the Son, and the holy spirit together form one God. How did the Trinity become an official doctrine? More important, is this teaching in harmony with the Bible?
THE Bible was completed in the first century C.E. Teachings that led to the development of the Trinity began to be officially formulated in 325 C.E.—more than two centuries later—at a council in the city of Nicaea in Asia Minor, now Iznik, Turkey. According to the New Catholic Encyclopedia, the creed attributed to the Council of Nicaea set out the first official definition of ‘Christian orthodoxy,’ including the definition of God and Christ. Why, though, was it deemed necessary to define God and Christ centuries after the Bible was completed? Is the Bible unclear on these important topics?
IS JESUS GOD?
When Constantine became sole ruler of the Roman Empire, professed Christians were divided over the relationship between God and Christ. Was Jesus God? Or was he created by God? To settle the matter, Constantine summoned church leaders to Nicaea, not because he sought religious truth, but because he did not want religion to divide his empire.
“To us there is but one God, the Father.”—1 Corinthians 8:6, King James Version
Constantine asked the bishops, who may have numbered into the hundreds, to come to a unanimous accord, but his request was in vain. He then proposed that the council adopt the ambiguous notion that Jesus was “of one substance” (homoousios) with the Father. This unbiblical Greek philosophical term laid the foundation for the Trinity doctrine as later set forth in the church creeds. Indeed, by the end of the fourth century, the Trinity had essentially taken the form it has today, including the so-called third part of the godhead, the holy spirit.
WHY SHOULD YOU CARE?
Jesus said that “the true worshipers will worship the Father with . . . truth.” (John 4:23) That truth has been recorded in the Bible. (John 17:17) Does the Bible teach that the Father, the Son, and the holy spirit are three persons in one God?
For one thing, the Bible does not mention the word “Trinity.” For another, Jesus never claimed to be equal to God. Instead, Jesus worshipped God. (Luke 22:41-44) A third line of evidence concerns Jesus’ relationship with his followers. Even after he was raised from the dead to the spirit realm, Jesus called his followers “my brothers.” (Matthew 28:10) Were they brothers of Almighty God? Of course not! But through their faith in Christ—God’s preeminent Son—they too became sons of the one Father. (Galatians 3:26) Compare some additional scriptures with the following statement from the creed attributed to the Council of Nicaea.
What the Nicene Creed says:
“We believe . . . in one Lord Jesus Christ . . . that is of the substance of the Father, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God.”
What the Bible says:
“I [Jesus] ascend unto my Father, and your Father, and to my God, and your God.”—John 20:17.
“To us there is but one God, the Father.”—1 Corinthians 8:6.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”—1 Peter 1:3.
Italics ours. All the quotations in this section are from the King James Version.
The Bible study aid What Does the Bible Really Teach? includes these two lessons: “What Is the Truth About God?” and “Who Is Jesus Christ?” You may obtain a copy from Jehovah’s Witnesses or read it online at www.jw.org.