The Scriptures, Reason and the Trinity
FOR the great majority of professed Christians the most vital teaching is that of the trinity. Well expressing the sentiments of such is the statement appearing in the Nazarene publication, Herald of Holiness: “No one can take the doctrine of the Trinity lightly and at the same time be loyal to Christianity.”—June 11, 1952.
In discussing the trinity at a solemn mass performed at St. Patrick’s cathedral, the Msgr. Greene held that Jesus taught the trinity by his words as recorded at Matthew 28:18-20 (Cath. Confrat.): “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” According to this monsignor: “At His baptism in the river Jordan, all the persons of the Trinity manifested themselves. The Father was heard as a voice from heaven. The Son was there in the person of Jesus. The Holy Ghost appeared in the form of a dove. There is no answer in this world to this impenetrable mystery, which is not contrary to reason but above reason. In some mysterious way, there are three persons in one God—yet only one God. That is what we accept without understanding it.”—New York Times, June 9, 1952.
CONSIDERING THE “PROOFS”
But does the mere associating together of the Father, the Son and the holy spirit prove that they constitute a trinity? Certainly that in itself is no basis for the trinitarian concept as expressed in the Athanasian creed: “In the Trinity none is afore or after the other; none is greater or less than another. But the whole three persons are coeternal together, and coequal.” If that were the case then ‘Abraham, Isaac and Jacob’ would be a trinity and so would ‘Peter, James and John’.
Nor can their being present at the time of Jesus’ baptism argue for a trinity. No more than can the presence at a United States presidential inauguration of the president, the judge who administers the oath and the Bible on which the oath is taken, although all three are essential to the ceremony. The fact is that the circumstances on that occasion prove the very opposite. We see God in heaven, as the Superior One, voicing his approval of his Son; we see his Son on earth expressing delight to do his Father’s will; clearly two separate and distinct personalities and not at all equal. Separate and distinct also is the holy spirit being shown descending as a dove. Nothing here to indicate that it is a person, let alone that it is equal with God Jehovah.—Matt. 3:16, 17; Heb. 10:5-7, NW.
For proof of the trinity some quote 1 John 5:7: “There are Three who give testimony in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost. And these three are one.” (Dy) However, these words are no part of God’s inspired Word, not being found in any Greek manuscript earlier than the fifteenth century, nor in Jerome’s Latin Vulgate, nor in any Latin version written before the ninth century.
Nor can John 1:1 be used to prove the trinity: “In the beginning was the Word: and the Word was with God: and the Word was God.” (Dy) In the first place not three but only two persons are here involved. Further note that in the original Greek there is a definite article before God when applied to Jehovah, but not when applied to the Word. Accordingly, modern translators render it: “The Word was divine.” (AT) “The Logos was divine.” (Mo) “The Word was a god.”—NW.
But, someone will ask, does not Jesus state, “I and my Father are one”? (John 10:30) True, but did he mean oneness of person or substance, or oneness of work and purpose? Evidently the latter, for he said: “If I am not doing the works of my Father, do not believe me. But if I am doing them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, in order that you may grasp the fact and may continue knowing that the Father is in union with me and I am in union with the Father.” Clearly showing that Jesus meant oneness of purpose, of work, of organization are his further words in his prayer for his followers: “That they may be one just as we are one. I in union with them and you in union with me.”—John 10:25, 37, 38; 17:20-23, NW.
Another text frequently used to prove the trinity is 1 Timothy 3:16, which reads, in part: “God was manifest in the flesh.” However, modern Bible scholarship renders this text “He [that is, Christ Jesus] who was manifested in the flesh”. (AS) And a footnote of the AS version states: “The word God, in place of He who, rests on no sufficient ancient evidence.”—See also An American Translation; Moffatt; Rotherham; New World Translation.
SCRIPTURES DISPROVE TRINITY TEACHING
Having considered the strongest purported Scriptural evidence in favor of the trinity and having found it invalid, let us now consider Scriptural evidence disproving this teaching. To hold that Jehovah God the Father and Christ Jesus his Son are coeternal is to fly in the face of reason. The very fact that the Son received his life from the Father proves that he could not be coeternal with him. According to the Scriptures, Jehovah God, the great Father and fountain of life, has always existed. “From everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.” (Ps. 36:9; 90:2) But the Son received his life from his Father: “I live because of the Father.” (John 1:18; 6:57, NW) Clearly Jesus owed his existence to God; but God owes his existence to no one else. Jesus Christ “is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation”. God is not the image of anyone, but he created creatures in his image. (Gen. 1:26) God was not born, but his creatures were; they had a beginning, but not he. The first of his creatures was his only-begotten Son, “the beginning of the creation by God.”—Col. 1:15; Rev. 3:14, NW.
And not only in this respect but also in every other is Jehovah God the Father superior to his Son Christ Jesus. Jesus himself assures us, “The Father is greater than I am.” (John 14:28, NW) Nor can it be argued that God was superior to Jesus only because of Jesus’ then being a human, for Paul makes clear that Christ Jesus in his prehuman form was not equal to his Father. At Philippians 2:1-11 (NW) he counsels Christians not to be motivated by egotism but to have lowliness of mind even as Christ Jesus had, who, although existing in God’s form before coming to earth, was not ambitious to become equal with his Father.
Throughout the Scriptures Jehovah God is repeatedly termed the Almighty God. “I appeared unto Abraham, . . . by the name of God Almighty.” (Gen 17:1; Ex. 6:3; Ezek. 10:5) But his Son is merely termed a mighty one. “Gird thy sword upon thy thigh, O mighty one.” “And his name shall be called . . . Mighty God.” (Ps. 45:3; Isa. 9:6, AS) Jesus appreciated this distinction. In replying to the religious leaders of his day, who accused him of blasphemy, he said: “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said: You are gods’? If he called ‘gods’ those against whom the word of God came, and yet the Scripture cannot be nullified, do you say to me whom the Father sanctified and dispatched into the world, ‘You blaspheme,’ because I said, I am God’s Son?” (John 10:34-36, NW) Yes, Jesus did not claim to be The God, but only God’s Son.
That Jesus is inferior to his Father is also apparent from Paul’s words at Hebrews 7:7 (NW): “Now without any dispute, the less is blessed by the greater.” Did Jesus bless God? No, but it was ‘God who anointed Jesus with the oil of gladness more so than his partners’. (Heb. 1:8, 9, NW) Jesus was also inferior to his Father in the matter of knowledge, he himself stating regarding the time of a certain future event: “Concerning that day and hour nobody knows, neither the angels of the heavens nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Matt. 24:36, NW) Jesus confessed: “The Father taught me,” and Paul tells that Jesus did not please himself but learned obedience by the things he suffered. But, “Who has come to know Jehovah’s mind, or who has become his counselor?” Yes, “Who has first given to him, so that it must be repaid to him?”—John 8:27-29, 58; Rom. 11:34, 35; 15:1-3; Heb. 5:8, NW.
Jehovah God commanded the angels to worship the Son, but he himself did not bow down to his Son. (Heb. 1:6) But Jesus recognized that he must bow down and worship his Father. (Matt. 4:8-10) After his resurrection both the apostles and Jesus himself, although Jesus then ‘was the exact representation of his Father’s very being’, still recognized that Jehovah God was the “God” of Jesus Christ.—2 Cor. 1:3; Eph. 1:3, 17; Heb. 1:3; Rev. 1:6; 3:12, NW.
Jehovah God, being the God of Jesus Christ, was therefore also his Head: “The head of every man is the Christ; . . . in turn, the head of the Christ is God.” Time and again, therefore, we read that Jesus is God’s servant whom God sent forth for the accomplishing of God’s will.—Isa. 42:1-4; Matt. 12:17-21; John 8:42; 17:18, 25; 1 Cor. 11:3, NW.
Jesus prayed to his God and was heard. “In the days of his flesh Christ offered up supplications and also petitions to the one who was able to save him out of death, with strong outcries and tears, and he was favorably heard for his godly fear.” Can we imagine Jehovah God seeking help from his Son?—Matt. 26:39; 27:46; John 11:41, 42; Heb. 5:7, NW.
THE “HOLY GHOST”
The Greek word translated “ghost” or “spirit” throughout the “New Testament” simply means “a current of air”, ‘breath or blast of wind, or breeze.’ (Strong’s Concordance) The “Holy Ghost” or holy spirit is God’s active force by which he accomplishes his purposes, whether they include that of creating, of writing the Scriptures or helping his servants to understand them.—Gen. 1:2; 2 Sam. 23:2, AS; John 14:26; 15:26; 1 Cor. 2:10; 2 Pet. 1:21, NW.
There is no basis for concluding that the holy spirit is a person. The Bible tells of being baptized, which actually means being dipped in or immersed in water, with fire and with the holy spirit. How could the 120 persons at Pentecost be baptized with a person? (Acts 1:5; 2:1-4) The mere fact that the holy spirit is sometimes given personality does not argue against this, for often in the Scriptures personality is attributed to things not persons, such as Jerusalem, Zion, etc. But nowhere do we read of Jehovah God and Jesus as being referred to by neuter pronouns, which is the case in regard to the holy spirit. “It is the Spirit of Truth. The world cannot obtain that Spirit, because it does not see it or recognize it; you recognize it because it stays with you and is within you.” (John 14:16, 17, AT; Acts 2:33) This is further borne out by the frequent lack of the definite article before holy spirit, such as at Acts 2:4 (NW): “And they all became filled with holy spirit.” Neither Stephen nor John saw any “Holy Ghost” in their visions of heaven.—Acts 7:55; Rev. 5:1-6.
OF PAGAN ORIGIN
Having seen that there is no Scriptural support for the teaching of the trinity but much Scriptural evidence contradicting it, obviously it is not of divine origin. From where, then, did it originate? Note the following testimony:
“The recognition of a trinity was universal in all the ancient nations of the world.”—The Two Babylons, Hislop.
“The word triad, or trinity, was borrowed from the pagan schools of philosophy and introduced into the theology of Christians of the middle second century by Theophilus, Bishop of Antioch.”—Bibliotheque Ecclesiastique, Dupin.
“Trinity is a very marked feature in Hindooism, and is discernible in Persian, Egyptian, Roman, Japanese, Indian and the most ancient Grecian mythologies.”—Religious Dictionary, Abbott.
Yes, the trinity finds its origin in the pagan concept of a multiplicity, plurality or pantheon of gods. The law Jehovah God gave to the Jews stated diametrically the opposite: “Jehovah our God is one Jehovah.”—Deut. 6:4, AS.
Jehovah God says: “Come now, and let us reason together.” (Isa. 1:18) The advocates of the trinity admit that it is not subject to reason or logic, and so they resort to terming it a “mystery”. But the Bible contains no divine mysteries. It contains “sacred secrets”. Every use of the words “mystery” and “mysteries” in the King James Version comes from the same Greek root word meaning “to shut the mouth”, that is, to keep secret. There is a vast difference between a secret and a mystery. A secret is merely that which has not been made known, but a mystery is that which cannot be understood.
The advocates of the trinity admit that they cannot understand it. In vain they try to do the impossible, to elucidate it by analogies which are not analogous in vital respects; a practice which convicts them of inconsistency and a lack of confidence in the merits of their position. Jehovah God by his Word furnishes us with ample reasons and logical bases for all regarding which he expects us to exercise faith. Through the apostle Paul he counsels: “Make sure of all things; hold fast to what is right.” (1 Thess. 5:21, NW) We can make sure of what is right only by a process of reasoning on God’s Word.
The fact that the teaching of the trinity is not mentioned, not discussed, not explained nor vindicated anywhere in the Scriptures when so many other main points of teaching are (and that in spite of the fact that it has been the most controversial teaching of so-called Christianity) is strong circumstantial evidence that neither Christ Jesus nor his apostles nor disciples, nor, for that matter, any of the prophets of old recognized or taught such a mysterious teaching. God through his Word appeals to our reason. The trinity doctrine is a negation of both the Scriptures and reason.