There are divergent views as to whether Trinitarian doctrine is biblical or not, as the word "Trinity" is not mentioned in the Bible, therefore, the purpose of this paper is to discuss:
- the origin and the meaning of the doctrine of Trinity;
- what the Bible says about the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit; and
- a conclusion as to whether the Trinitarian doctrine is biblical or not.
The meaning of Trinity by Christians
Christians refer to Trinity as the belief that there are three persons comprising the family of God―the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Some believe that only one person reveals himself differently as each of the three persons at different times. Others however, believe that there are actually three separate persons.
Shelley (1995) suggests that Christians should use personal circumstance to explain the Trinity doctrine because God is a person. Therefore, using patterns of threeness of things such as the yoke, white and shell of an egg to illustrate the Trinity doctrine misses the personal element in the Trinitarian doctrine.
The history of the Trinity doctrine
After the death of Roman Emperor Galerius, Constantine conquered his rival Maxentius to take control of Rome in 312 AD (Shelley, 1995). In about 318 A.D., Arius, a pastor of the influential Baucalis Church challenged openly his Bishop Alexander and other teachers in Alexandria about the deity of Christ. Arius argued that the Word (Logos) who assumed flesh in Jesus Christ (John 1:14) has an entirely different nature from the true God, and is neither eternal nor omnipotent as he is the greatest and first created Being and that there was a time when he had no existence (Shelley, 1995). Thus, when Jesus is referred to as God, it does not mean that he is a deity except in some approximate sense (Shelley, 1995). Eusebius, the bishop of the empire's capital of Nicomedia supported Arius (Shelley, 1995). Thus, the theological quarrel became a test of strength between the two most important churches in the East: Nicomedia, the political capital, and Alexandria, the intellectual capital (Shelley, 1995). Bishop Alexander called a synod at Alexandria about 320 AD, and got Arius excommunicated.
According to Boer (1976), Constantine watched the situation very closely as the unity of his empire appeared to be in danger; politically, the empire was one; theologically, it was two. He called a council of the entire church to settle the matter, and to enforce the decision of the council with the power of the state (Boer, 1976). It is imperative to mention that Constantine's primary motive for organising the council was more of political than theological, as he sought to maintain a united empire (Boer, 1976) .
From 20 May to 25 July 325AD, the Council met in Nicea with about three hundred bishops attending including Constantine's Chief Ecclesiastical Adviser (Hosius) and two delegates sent by the Roman bishop (Shelley, 1995). Arius, who appeared before the Council as a defendant reiterated his views. The Council denounced him and also took some concrete steps to stop any possible spread of the so called Arian heresy. The Council therefore produced the Nicene Creed and with the intervention of Constantine, the creed, which is still widely used in churches such as the Catholic and Anglican, was adopted (Shelley, 1995) .
Between 325 and 381 AD, the general Council of the church met several times to clarify the Trinitarian doctrine. At the meeting of the Council in 381 AD, Tertullian explained that there is one divine nature―the Father and the Son have this one nature in common, but they are separate and distinct, so far as their persons are concerned (Boer, 1976). The later theology combined Tertulian's teaching of one nature and two persons with Origen's teaching of the eternal generation of the Son to provide the explanation of the relationship between the Son and the Father (Boer 1976). Tertullian also related the Holy Spirit to the Father and the Son―three divine persons exist in one divine nature. Thus, Tertullian provided the main outlines for the Christian doctrine of the Trinity (Boer 1976).
Now that I have discussed the historical origin of the Trinitarian doctrine, I will turn my attention on what the Bible says about the God family starting from the relationship of the Father and the Son.
The Father and the Son are separate entities
According to John chapter 1, "In the beginning ... the Word was with God and the Word was God (v.1); And the Word became flesh and lived among us ... (v.14); No one has ever seen God; the only begotten Son, who is in the Father's bosom, he has made him known (v.18).
There appears to be ambiguities in the statements in John chapter 1 that:
- the Word, who was with God and known as the Son of God, is also referred to as God at the same time. How can the Word referred to as the Son of God, be with God and also be God at the same time?; and
- no one has ever seen God, yet, Moses and others are said to have seen God.
In the discussion of this paper, I will attempt to resolve the above ambiguities. Suffice to state for now that, John clearly identifies two persons―the Father and the Son. This is consistent with the statements in Gen 1:26, where God stated 'let us make man in our own image and after our likeness' and in Gen 3:22, where the Lord said 'see the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil'. The various biblical evidence that God created the universe through Jesus, support the fact that the discussions in Gen 1:26 and 3:22 transpired between God and Jesus. This indicates that God and Jesus are separate persons.
Moreover, several prophets and apostles saw Jesus and God as separate beings in visions, including Stephen, who saw Jesus sitting at the right hand of God, when Stephen was being stoned (Acts 7). Unless someone tells me that Stephen had a hallucination, then it is not valid to maintain that God is the same person as Jesus. Please read appendix 1 for further discussion about God and Jesus, as separate entities
Equality of the Son verses the supremacy of the Father
Some theologians suggest that Jesus is equal or can claim equality with God, and support their assertion with Philippians 2:6, which states "He always had the nature of God, but did not think that by force he should try to become equal with God" (Today's English Version (1976)). However, Philippians 2:6 when read objectively shows just the opposite, as explained below.
In John 14:28 Jesus stated "If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I go to the Father; for the Father is greater than I" (bolding emphasis mine). Do we need further proof to show that the father is greater? Jesus made the statement on the basis of his heavenly and not the earthly status, as the listeners already knew that as a human Jesus, the Father (and even angels) was definitely greater than him. Further, he made the same not because he was compelled by a situation to make, in other words, he could have chosen not to make it.
In 1 Cor 15:27-28, Paul stated that "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 this does not include the one 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 everyone". Undoubtedly, Paul means here that the power to ultimately subject all things to Jesus comes from God (and not Jesus himself) and God will not be part of the things that will be subjected to Jesus, instead Jesus will be subjected to God. John 13:3 corroborates Paul's view by stating that Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God.
Also, 1Cor 11:3 and Ephesians 4:4 describe the [only] one God as the head of Jesus and the Father of all, who is above all including Jesus. Paul wrote these passages several years after Jesus had ascended to heaven and therefore, the passage applies to the heavenly relationship between God and Christ, yet, Paul referred to the Father as the boss of the Son.
In addition, in Matt 20:20-23, the mother of Zebedee asked Jesus to allow her sons to sit, one at his right and the other at his left, in his kingdom. Jesus answered … "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". Jesus has here acknowledged the prerogative powers of the Father; which according to Ps 110:1; Matt 22:41-45 and Acts 2:33-34, extends over Jesus himself, because it is the Father who had granted the Son the right to sit on the Father's right hand.
In contrast to the above, the Bible tells us that there are some other jurisdictions that the Father has delegated (and I mean delegated) the sole responsibility to the Son. For instance, Jesus noted in Jn 5:21; 23, "The Father judges no one but has given all judgement to the Son (v.21). And he (the Father) has given him authority to execute judgement, because he is the Son of Man (v.23). Despite Jesus' explicit portrayal of the supremacy of the Father here, some even use the same test to advocate the equality of Jesus with God, because Jesus will execute judgement, yet Jesus stated plainly that he would receive the authority to judge from the Father. If Jesus were coequal with the Father, would he need to receive delegated authority to judge? Of course not, and this should simply put any claim of equality between God and Jesus to rest.
The above passages clearly indicate that the Father is not acting merely as primus inter pares (i.e. the first among equals or peers), but is actually superior to the Son. And that Jesus even derives his power from the Father. It is against this background that Paul asserted in Rom 6:10 that even after Jesus' ascension, he Jesus continues to live to God. The above discussions undoubtedly rebut any suggestion that Jesus could claim equality with God. Please read appendix 2 for further discussion.
Many equal Gods or only one true God
In several places in the Bible including John 1:1, Jesus is referred to as God. However, Jesus is also in most cases, referred to as the Son of God, including John 1:14. Therefore, how could Jesus could be God and the Son of another God at the same time? The issue therefore is whether Jesus is referred to God only in the sense of his nature (divine being) or he is God in the real sense. Let us examine the scriptures below in order to determine the actual status of Jesus:
- Deut 6:4 states "Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one";
- Jesus stated in John 17:1-3, "Father, …this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom that has sent"
- Jesus also stated in Jn 5:44 "How can you believe when ... you do not seek the glory that comes from the one who alone is God"
- in Gal 3:20, Paul wrote "God is only one";
- 1 Timothy 1:7, "Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honour and glory forever and ever. Amen".
- in 1 Tim 2:5-6, Paul wrote "There is one God, and one mediator between God and men, a man, Christ Jesus, who gave himself a corresponding ransom for all";
It appears from the foregoing passages that while Jesus has been referred to as God in the Bible, he himself and Paul did not considered that he was the true (real) God, but only the Son of God. Therefore, Paul declared in 1 Cor 8:5-6 that, the Father (the true God is the source or originator of everything, while Jesus is the agent through whom the originator caused everything.
In addition, in John 10:34-36, Jesus responded to the accusation that he was making himself God that he has not called himself God, but only the Son of God.
Further, in Matthew 16: 13-18, Jesus asked the disciples who they taught he was? Peter responded that Jesus was "the Christ, the Son of the living God." Jesus applauded Peter for his correct answer and stated further that God revealed the answer to Peter. This information confirms again that Jesus considered himself only as the Son of God. In addition, demons correctly addressed Jesus as the Son of God (James 2:19; Matt 8:29).
Moreover, the scriptures always refer to the Father as the God of Jesus and not the other way round. Please see appendix 3 for further discussions.
From the foregoing discussion, it seems obvious that despite Jesus sharing the divine attributes of God, Jesus only considered himself as the only begotten Son of God and not God. This is not my view, it is the view of Jesus and others like Paul as evidently discussed above and in appendix 3.
Immortality verses mortality
The Bible clearly states that the only true God does not die. Habakkuk 1:12 states, "Lord, are you not from everlasting? My God, my Holy One, you will never die. This passage definitely refers to the Father alone and not Jesus, because Jesus died for three days (except he did not experience decay, Acts 13:34-35). For this reason, Roman 6:9-10 states, for we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery (dominion) over him, but lives to God. Paul clearly indicated in Romans 6:9-10 that until the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, death had mastery over him. In other words, Jesus' immortality is not inherent, but was given to him by his God after his resurrection. Against this background, 1 Timothy 6:16 and 1:7 make it clear that it is God (the Father) alone who has immortality. In other words, only the Father has innate immortality and that Jesus acquired immortality after God has resurrected him from dead.
The invisibility of God
The following passages discuss the invisibility of the Almighty God:
- 1Timothy 6:16, “That it is he alone who has immortality and dwell in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see …”
- John 1:18, "No one has ever seen God, it is God the only son, who is close to the Father's heart, who has made him known."
- 1 John 4:12, "no one has ever seen God."
- John 3:13, "And no man has ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of Man."
- Jn 6: 46, "Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father."
- Jn 5: 37, "And the Father who sent me has himself testified on my behalf. You have never heard his voice or seen his form."
The foregoing passages make it emphatically clear that no human being either alive or dead has ever seen God or can even approach where the true God is. It is only through visions that some people have seen God. In contrast, Jesus appeared to people like Abraham and also lived among humans.
Who appeared to Moses
As discussed above, no one has seen the only true God before; who then showed his back to Moses as mentioned in Ex 33:19-20? Further, in Gen 18, the Lord appeared with two angels to Abraham on their way to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. The story tells us further that while the angels left, Abraham continued to plead with the Lord that the Lord should not destroy the place if 10 or so righteous people are found (surely, Abraham has his relative Lot in mind). In addition, we note from the chapter that Abraham served the Lord and the Angels food, so this was a real physical encounter and not a vision or dream. The story also makes a clear distinction between the two angels on one hand and the third person (the Lord) on the other hand. As I will explain below, it was the same person that both Moses and Abraham saw, except in the case of Moses, he appeared in his full glory and therefore, Moses could only see his back.
These face-to-face encounters of the above people with the Lord or God, on the surface appear to contradict John and Paul's statements; however, the Bible does not contradict itself. In this regard, Paul has given us a clue about who appeared to these persons. In 1 Cor 10:4, Paul states "and they all drank from the spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ." Paul's revelation tells us that it was Jesus who followed the Israelites. Therefore, we can firmly conclude that it was the same person (Christ) who appeared to Moses.
If one is still not convinced, then consider the evidence given by Jesus himself. Jesus told the Pharisees in John 8: 56 that "your ancestor Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day; he saw it and was glad". It is convincing to assume that Jesus' statement relates to the passage in Gen 18, referred to above. Therefore, based on Paul's revelation and Jesus' own statement, it is obvious that it was Jesus who appeared as God in the Old Testament, as God himself (the Father) has never appeared or spoken to any human before, it is his only begotten Son who has made him known. Jesus executed and continues to execute all major plans of God, unless angels or humans can do it. Hence God created the universe through him (Col 1:16; Jn 1:3; Pro 8; Heb 1:1-3). Jesus also personally accompanied two angels to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, supporting the view that God has delegated all authority to judge to him. On his way to Sodom, he informed Abraham that he would have Isaac as a son. He accompanied the Israelites in the Wilderness and directed Moses. He was the one who definitely spoke and/or appeared to Adam and Eve. In the New Testament, Jesus came to die for our sins, he revealed himself to Paul, personally revealed the Book of Revelation to John. While many in the Old Testament mentioned through revelation that the Father has a Son (see Prov 30:4), they still had very limited view about him. Therefore, they might have always perceived the Father to be acting personally, while in fact, Jesus always acted on behalf of the Father. The Father is not yet accessible to any human being. It is for this reason that Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 6:16 that, the Father dwells in unapproachable light and no one has ever seen or can see him (see also John 1:18, 1 John 4:12, Jn 6: 46).
What about the Holy Spirit
Most Christians believe that the Holy Spirit is a third person in the family of God, although there are conflicting views as to whether there is only one God revealing himself in different forms or there are three distinct persons. As discussed above, God the Father and Jesus are distinct persons. Therefore, the remaining discussion of this paper focuses on whether the Holy Spirit is another person or not.
The Holy Spirit is always missing when God and Jesus are identified
Whenever the prophets and the apostles had a vision of heaven, they only saw the Father and the Son. For instance, in Acts 7:55, 56, Stephen saw "Jesus standing at God's right hand", but not the Holy Spirit. Also, in Revelation chapters 4, 5, 21 and 22, John was caught up in heaven in a vision and identified God and Jesus sitting in their thrones or Jesus or standing by God, but the Holy Spirit was never seen, despite that other beings of lesser significant including angels were routinely identified. If the Holy Spirit is a person, it is strange that the Spirit is always missing in these heavenly assemblies. Rather, the scenes are consistent with the biblical truth that there is only one God (the Father) and one Lord (Jesus Christ), and there is no such separate person as the Holy Spirit, as if there were, he would not be missing in these important meetings.
Also, David and other prophets through divine revelation identified the Father and his Son, as indicated in for example, Proverbs 30: 4 and Ps 2:7. Again, in all these instances, where the Father and his Son were conspicuously identified, the Holy Spirit was missing.
Further, as I discussed in the previous section, in Mark 13:32, when Jesus stated that only the Father knows when the world will end, he only mentioned the angels and himself as the other powerful beings that do not know. Even if we assume that Jesus had limited knowledge at the time because he was still a human being, why was it that the Holy Spirit was not mentioned? Jesus clearly indicated here that he did not consider the Spirit to be God or a person.
Similarly, Paul's statement in 1 Cor 15:27-28 that God will subject everything under the authority of Jesus leaves us much to desire. It is imperative to note that Paul specifically and emphatically excluded the Father from those that will be the subjects of Jesus, and stated further that Jesus rather will be subjected to the Father. Therefore, if the Holy Spirit were God as some claim, why did Paul not refer to the Spirit and specifically exclude the Holy Spirit from Jesus' subjection or something like that? The most possible is that Paul did not consider the Spirit to be God.
Further, as discussed already, the Bible states that the Father is the only true God and Jesus is the mediator between him and humans (John 5: 44, 17:1-3; Gal 3:20; 1 Tim 2:5-6 and 1 Cor 8:5,-6). I note that in all these passages where the status and relationship of God and Jesus were put into clear context andexplained, the Holy Spirit was omitted, despite that Paul found it appropriate to even mention idols ('gods' and 'lords' in 1 Cor 8:5, 6). Clearly, this casts doubts over the belief that the Holy Spirit is a person and more importantly, God, otherwise, it would not be appropriate once again, for the Holy Spirit to be left out. Please see appendix 4 for more discussion.
The Spirit of God and the Spirit of Christ are used as equivalent terms
In several passages in the Bible, the Spirit of God is used as an equivalent term (interchangeably) with the "Spirit of Jesus". For instance, Paul stated in 2 Cor 3: 17 that "Now the Lord is that Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom". Strangely, Paul's statement has created a doctrinal difficulty to theologians. For instance, the Peake Bible Commentary states that in 2 Cor 3: 17f:
"two phrases occur in two verses seem to identify the risen Lord with the Holy Spirit and some scholars have accepted the view that Paul identified them; others prefer to speak of 'equivalence of function', the work of the Lord being undifferentiated from that of the spirit, or they suggest that the 'Lord' means 'God' Ex 34: 34, being in mind; or they maintain that in Christians experience, Christ and his spirit are one and that Paul meant no more than that".
Similarly, the Oxford Bible Commentary states: "The identification of Spirit with Lord (in Paul's letters usually referring to Christ) has raised doctrinal questions, but many commentators believe 'Lord' in vv 16-17 refers directly to God".
Firstly, in my view, Paul did not refer to the Father when he used the term 'Lord', since he used the term again in the same chapter to specifically refer to Jesus. Further, in the next chapter (2 Cor 4:5-6), Paul stated that he preaches only Jesus Christ as Lord. The Oxford Bible Commentary itself admits that in 2 Cor 4:5-6 "…Paul argues that he proclaims only 'Christ as Lord'. Moreover, Paul from time to time used the term 'Lord' to exclusively refer to Jesus and also differentiate him from the Father:
- 1 Cor 8:5-6 , "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";
- Rom 10:9, "If you confess with your mouth 'Jesus is Lord' and believe that God raised him from the dead"; and
- Philippians 2:11, "Every tongue confesses that Jesus Christ is Lord to the Glory of God the Father".
So the question is what makes the commentators to panic and unrealistically suggest that the 'Lord' in 2 Cor 3: 16f refers to God (the Father)? It appears once the term 'Lord' is correctly applied to Jesus, it simply negates the whole basis of the Trinitarian doctrine. I mean, the proponents of Trinity claim that there are three Gods―the Father, the Son (Jesus) and the Spirit of God. But hang on! According to 2 Corinthians 3:17, Jesus as well as the Spirit of Christ appear simultaneously. This means that potentially, we have four Gods―the Father, Jesus, the Spirit of God and also the Spirit of Christ. The commentators noticing this problem has unrealistically suggested that Paul referred the term 'Lord' to God. However, the suggestion is not legitimate because in Philippians 1: 19 for instance, Paul specifically referred the Holy Spirit to as the Spirit of Christ, as this shows the interrelationship and interdependence between the Lord Jesus Christ and his “spirit.” Further, the NIV Study Bible admits that:
"There is a close relationship between the Spirit of Christ and the Holy Spirit. Both are said to dwell in believer (Ro 8: 9; Gal 2: 20). In Ro 8: 9-10 the Spirit, the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ, and Christ all seem to be used interchangeably. In Acts 16: 6-7 The Holy Spirit and the Spirit of Jesus is said to be one and the same".
While the NIV Study Bible has identified that the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God and the Spirit of Christ are used interchangeably and are essentially the same thing, it has failed to recognise that this indicates that the Holy Spirit cannot be a person or God. Instead, the NIV Study Bible suggests that the Holy Spirit and the Spirit of Christ are one and the same, "Perhaps, this is because the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son, and the first two persons of the Trinity accomplish their purpose through the spirit". Yes, the NIV Study Bible has correctly identified that Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son, but this is one of the strongest reasons why the Spirit is not a person.
Despite that the Holy Spirit was mentioned as early as Genesis 1:2 and certainly before Jesus (the Son) was specifically ever mentioned in the Bible, there is no specific passage in the Bible that explicitly state that God created the universe with or through the Holy Spirit. All such specific and explicit statements refer to Jesus only. Yet, Psalm 104:30 for instance states, "When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth" . The passage clearly indicates that while the Holy Spirit was sent to perform the action, it refers back to God as the one who actually did the creation. It appears obvious therefore that though God and Jesus accomplish their purposes though the Holy Spirit, because the Spirit is not a person, no specific statement is made explicitly that God created the universe through the Spirit, because such a statement may not be appropriate.
Also, in John 20:22 Jesus is said to have breathed on the disciples and said to them "receive the spirit". This action of Jesus appears to indicate that Jesus was giving them something, which was inherently part and parcel of him, rather than another person separate from him. The action is also consistent with the primary meaning of the Hebrew word 'ruwack' and the Greek word 'pneuma' that translate as spirit in the Old Testament and New Testament respectively. According to the New Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, the primary (or root) meanings of these words are wind (breeze) and blow (breath) respectively. The New Revised Standard Version in line with the above interpretation renders the Spirit as wind in Gen 1:2 ("the wind of God swept over the face of the waters, as the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep").
The Spirit of God used interchangeably with the spirit of Moses
The Bible also uses the Spirit of God as an equivalent term with the spirit of Moses. In Numbers 11:15-16, when Moses became frustrated with the complaints and demands of the Israelites, he requested God to let him die. God asked Moses to gather seventy elders and come with them to meet him (God) at the tent. God stated further in verse 17 that "I will come down and talk with you there, and I will take some of the spirit on you and put it on them, and they shall bear the burden of the people along with you so that you will not bear it all yourself" (bolding emphasis mine). In verse 24, Moses selected the 70 elders and placed them around the tent. According to verse 25, "the Lord God came down in the cloud and spoke to him, and took some of the spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders; and when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied..." In verse 28, Joshua complained to Moses about the elders prophesying. Moses replied Joshua in verse 29, "Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord's people were prophets, and the Lord would put his spirit on them"!
As indicated above, the Lord referred to the spirit as Moses' spirit, while Moses referred to the same spirit as the spirit of the Lord (God's spirit) (verse 29). Therefore, if the Holy Spirit was a person and God, could the Spirit be used interchangeably with the spirit of Moses? The answer is no. This reinforces the earlier discussion about why the Holy Spirit is also known as the Spirit of Christ.
Discussion of passages that appear to indicate that the Spirit is a person
1 John 5:7, 8 (King James version) reads: "For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost (Spirit): 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 as one". It is accepted among theologians that the King James version (KJV) and other similar translations rely on some Greek texts that contain additional information underlined above that was not part of the original text. Therefore, the NIV for instance translates the text as “For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement". The NIV Study Bible also states that “The addition is not found in any Greek manuscript or NT translation prior to the 16th century". It has been suggested that the verse was tempered with in the Greek text from which the KJV was translated in order to support the Trinitarian doctrine.
Matt. 28: 18-20 states "... 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 ..." Also, 1 Cor 13:14 states "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the Love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all". The above passages appear to indicate that the Holy Spirit is presented on equal terms with the Father and the Son and therefore, the Spirit may be a person. However, other scriptures show that it is not only the Holy Spirit that has been presented with the Father and the Son in this way. Ephesians 4:4 states "There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and in all". If we insist that in accordance with Matt 28: 18-20 and others, the Holy Spirit is presented on the same footing and terms with God and Jesus, then we should also be ready to equalise the concepts―one body, one hope, one faith and one baptism in every respect with God and Jesus, since they were applied in a similar manner in Ephesians. Further, in 1 Tim 5:21, God, Christ and the angels are mentioned together, but not the Holy Spirit. Thus, the above presentation does not itself prove that the Holy Spirit is God.
The New International Version and others render Acts 20:28 as follows, "Keep watch over yourselves and for all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the Church of God which he bought with his own blood". It appears from here that the Holy Spirit has blood, but this is due to inaccurate translation. The Revised Standard Version correctly translates the text as "Keep watch over yourselves and over the flock, of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the Church of God that he obtained with the blood of his own Son". Surely, Jesus was the one who was crucified and not the Holy Spirit (1 Jn 1:7).
Also, other individual texts that refer to the Holy Spirit seem to indicate that the Spirit is a person. For instance, the Holy Spirit would be a helper and would teach, bear witness, speak and hear (John 14:16, 17, 26; 15:26; 16:13). However, it is not only the Spirit that has been personified in the Bible. Wisdom is said to have children (Lk 7:35); sin and death are said to be kings (Rom 5:14, 21) and sin described as lurking into the door of Cain (Gen 4:7). Death and Hades are said to give up their dead and also thrown into the lake of fire (Rev 20:13-14). In fact, while some texts say that the spirit "spoke", other passages make it clear that this was done through angels or humans (Acts 4:24,25; 28:25; Matt10: 19, 20; Acts 20:23, 21:10,11). In 1 Jn 5:6-8, not only the spirit but also "the water and blood" are said to 'bear witness." In this regard, these expressions associated with the Spirit do not themselves prove the Holy Spirit to be a person.
Some references to the Holy Spirit are not consistent with the belief that the Holy Spirit is a person
Some references associated with the Holy Spirit are not consistent with the belief that the Holy Spirit is a person. For instance, people are "filled", "baptised" (literally “dipped”) or "anointed" with the Spirit like oil (Lk 1:41; Matt 3:11; Acts 10:38, 2 Cor. 1:21, Eph. 1:13). The Holy Spirit is poured like water (Joel 2: 28, Acts 2:17) . It is “measured” as if it had volume (2 Kings 2:9; John 3:34). The above descriptions of the Holy Spirit have the characteristic of liquid, which by definition cannot refer to a person. In addition, as indicated above, the Spirit of God is said to be divisible and distributable, as God distributed the spirit on Moses (used interchangeably with the Spirit of God) to the 70 elders of Israel, these attributes are also not consistent with a definition of a person.
Again, the Bible gives us the personal names of the Father as God (Yahweh) and the Son as Jesus (Christ), but nowhere in the scriptures is the personal name of the Holy Spirit noted; yet, the Holy Spirit was revealed as early as Gen 1:2 (i.e. the second verse of the first chapter of the entire Bible Gen) and well before the Son was even specifically mentioned. Further, the Bible tells us that there is the Father and his Son, but is completely silent about what the Holy Spirit is, whether another son or someone else.
Further, in 1 Corinthians 2:12, the “spirit of the world” and “the spirit which is of God” are said to be directly opposite. As the “spirit of the world” cannot be a person separate from “the world,” neither is the “spirit of God” a person separate from God. Likewise, God had occasionally sent evil spirits to occupy some people. In 1 Samuel 16:23; 18:10, an evil spirit from God came upon Saul. In Judges 9:23, God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the lord of Schechem, and the lords of Schechem dealt treacherously with Abimelech. As the evil spirits that God sent to occupy these persons were most likely to be some power and not a person, so should the Holy Spirit be some power but not a person.
In addition, in the New Testament the Spirit is almost always translated as Holy Spirit (Ghost), that is, the word 'holy' is inserted in front of the Spirit and the first letters of both words start with capital letters. However, in the Old Testament, the same Spirit is almost always rendered simply as 'spirit' with the first letter not written in a capital letter and the word 'holy' missing in most cases, apart from only few instances such as in Psalm 51:11 and Isaiah 63:11, where the word 'holy' precedes the 'spirit'. Again, the translators imply by their action that they do not recognise the Holy Spirit as a person in the Old Testament. Grammatically, if the spirit was considered a person in the Old Testament, the spelling of the spirit should begin with capital letter "S". Significantly however, there are no fundamental differences between the Hebrew and Greek words used to denote the Spirit in the Old Testament and the New Testament respectively and that the Spirit has remained primarily the same from the Old Testament to the New Testament. There is therefore no justification for the same 'spirit' to be considered almost completely differently in the New Testament. It appears therefore the translators in their endeavour to promote the doctrine of Trinity, have translated the Holy Spirit differently in the New Testament by putting more emphasis on the Holy Spirit here, and by so doing creating incoherent and inconsistent team between the Old and the New Testaments .
Finally, according to Armstrong (1985), "in a number of places in modern translations the masculine pronoun 'he' is carelessly used in connection with the Holy Spirit". However, "sometimes the Holy Spirit is referred to as "it" in these very same translations. For example, in the passage describing the first coming of the Holy Spirit on the Pentecost day, the Holy Spirit came from heaven, audible sound like a mighty wind 'and it (the Holy Spirit) filled all the house where they were sitting'. 'And there appeared unto cloven tongues like as a fire, and it (the Holy Spirit in the form of divided tongues) sat upon each of them" (Acts 2: 2-3).
In this paper, I traced the history and the origin of Trinity into Christianity. I also extensively discussed the reasons why God the Father is distinct from Jesus. I also discussed that Jesus has always represented his Father and virtually executes all his major plans, unless angels or humans can perform the tasks. I also mentioned that it was Jesus who appeared to Moses and Abraham. I mentioned that no one has ever seen the Father before (in fact, the ability of human to see God the Father will only occur after the 1000 years after Christ has ruled the righteous on his 2nd coming, when the Father himself would take over the rule, Rev: 21:1-3). I also demonstrated that the Holy Spirit is not a person, but the power or active force of God and his Son that they use to work. In this regard, they are able to give some to Christians. In addition, as a matter of interest, I have quickly disputed in appendix 5, the false belief that speaking in tongues is the only benchmark to indicate born-againism.
Lastly, while I have not touched on whether Jesus has always pre-existed with God or God created Jesus, I think after reading through the theme of this article and getting understanding of the superiority of the Father over the Son, it should prompt you to ask the question, why the Father is so superior to the Son and etc. I guess the answer to this question is how they originated. I will discuss this in future, but for now let me end here that the Trinitarian doctrine is just a myth and that there no person like the Holy Spirit in the family of God.
Appendix 1 - Further discussion that the Father and the Son are separate entities
In Matt. 26:39, "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 will." Jesus definitely prayed to a Father, who is separate from Jesus.
Also, in John 8:17,18, Jesus answered the Pharisees "In your law it is written that the testimony of two men is true; I bear testimony to myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness to me". Jesus clearly indicated here that he is a separate person from the Father. Despite this, some Christians still uphold that the Father is the same as the Son and support their claim with the passages below.
In John 8:19, Jesus said, "You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you will know my Father also". Does this statement mean Jesus is the same person as the Father? Certainly not, for Jesus said in the preceding verses (Jn 8: 17-18) that "In your law it is written that the testimony of two witness is valid. I testify on my own behalf, and the Father who sent me testifies on my behalf". Jesus clearly stated here that he was a different person from the Father.
In John 10:30, Jesus stated, "I and my Father are one" and this means they are not distinct persons. Again, Jesus had differentiated himself from the Father in the preceding verse (29) by saying that "What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out from the Father's hand". Also, Jesus himself explained clearly what he meant by being "one" with the Father. In Jn 17: 21-22, he prayed to God that his disciples "may be one just as you, Father, are in union with me and I am in union with you, that they also may be in union with us, in that they may be one just as we are one". Apparently, Jesus did not pray to the Father, that all the disciples should become a single entity, but be united in thought and purpose, as he and God were. In 1 Cor 3: 6 & 8, Paul says, "I planted, Apollos watered… He that plants and he that waters are one". Definitely, Paul did not indicate that he and Apollos were one single person; he said they were united in purpose. The same thing applies to Gen 2:24; Matt 19:5; Mk 10:7, 8; Eph 5:31, which state a man will leave his parents and cling to his wife and they become one flesh. This statement does not mean that after marriage, a wife and husband become one single entity, but become united in purpose. In the same fashion, God and Jesus perfectly do everything together and agree always, but are distinct persons.
Appendix 2 – Further discussion regarding the Equality of the Son verses the supremacy of the Father
Jesus stated in Mark 13:32, "Of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." This should not be the case if the Father, Son and Holy Spirit were coequals, comprising Godhead. Moreover, after the resurrection of Jesus Christ and just immediately before he ascended to heaven, the disciples asked him in Acts 1:6 that "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?" (in other word, judge the world). Jesus said to them "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority" (v7). It is significant to stress that Jesus was at this stage not in human form as he had resurrected from death. Clearly, Jesus had the second opportunity to tell the disciples that he knew the date of the end of the world, instead he reinforced his statement made back in Mark 13:32 that only the Father knows.
Rev 1:1 refers to the Book of Revelation as the Revelation of Jesus Christ, the verse also makes it clear that it was God (the Father) who gave it to Jesus to show His servants—things which must shortly take place, despite that Jesus had already assumed his full glory in heaven at the time.
Also, in Acts 2:33-34, Peter quoted David by saying 'The Lord [God] said to my Lord [Jesus), "Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool".
Further, Jesus stated in:
- John 5:19, "The Son cannot do anything at his own pleasure, he can only do what he sees his Father doing".
- Jn 8:28-29, "When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will realise that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own, but I speak these things as the Father instructed me. And the one who sent me is with me, he has not left me alone, for I always do what is pleasing him".
- Jn 6:38, "I have come down from heaven to do, not my will, but the will of him that sent me".
- Jn 7:16, "What I teach is not mine, but belongs to him that sent me."
- Jn 8:26 "… the one who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him". Jn 8:38 "I declare what I have seen in the Father's presence".
- Jn 8:42, "Then Jesus said, "If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now I am here. I did not come on my own but he sent me".
- Matt 28:18, “All power is given unto me,” by God the Father.
- John 8:42; 7:28, “I am not come of myself” into the world, “for I proceeded forth and came from God.”
Appendix 3 – Further discussion about only one true God
As indicated below, Jesus always calls the Father his God and not the other way round:
- 1 Pet 1:13, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ".
- John 20:17, Jesus stated that "Go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father and your Father; and to my God and your God".
- Rev 3:12, after his resurrection and when Jesus was in heaven, he referred to the Father as his God;
On the hand, the Father has never called Jesus my God, instead my Son. For instance, Matt 3:16-17 states, "This is my son, the beloved, whom I am well pleased." Further, in Isaiah 42:1 and Matt 12:18, God even referred to Jesus as his servant. This text clearly indicates that the Father has always remained superior to the Son. It is highly unlikely that if at any point in time, the two were co-equals and the Father is merely acting as first among equals, he would refer to Jesus as his servant. This is only possible if one has always been subservient to the other. Thus, the father and son relationship has always persisted between them.
Appendix 4 - The omitted when Jesus and God are identified
In the prologue to the New Testament letters, all the writers introduced God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, but no one did that with “the Holy Spirit.” For instance, in his entire Epistle from Romans through Thessalonians, Paul sent the personal greetings from “God the Father and the Lord Jesus Chris", but never did so for the Holy Spirit. These actions appear to demonstrate that the disciples did not believe in Trinity.
Appendix 5 - The claim that the speaking of tongue is the only sign of the Holy Spirit Baptism and other issues
Some Christians even continue to twist the scriptures further by teaching that the only evidence of the Spirit or born-againism is the speaking of tongues; the Bible however, does not support this view. Paul stated in 1 Cor 14:5 that "Now I would like all of you to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. One who prophesies is greater than one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up". Paul definitely implied here that while it may be desirable for one to speak in tongues, in practice it is not everybody who will do so and argues further that prophesying is even higher gift than speaking in tongues. Yet, because some Christians mistakenly believe that they should by all means speak in tongues, they end up by 'inventing' their own tongues and languages. I Cor 12:4, 27-30 states that "Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same spirit: Now you are the body of Christ and individual members of it. God has appointed first apostles, second prophets, and then healing… Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?" Yes, Paul clearly indicated here that it is absolutely impossible that all Christians will speak in tongues or heal and so forth. So where comes from this fallacy being propagated in the Christendom that the speaking of tongue is the only benchmark for born againism.
Yes, if you leave a room for Satan, he will capitalise on it, some pastors even tell their congregation to utter any word that comes into their month, when they organise their so-called 'baptism of the Holy Spirit'. This seems to be funny, for the devil is very aggressive to prey upon those who render themselves vulnerable, especially, as a result of the twist of the word of God. In short, I do not believe that the Bible teaches that every Christians will have to speak in tongue.
- Armstrong, Herbert W. – Mystery of the Ages (1985)
- Boer, Harry R. – A short history of the early church (1976) Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Michigan US
- Chadwick, Henry – The penguin history of the church 1: The early church: The story of emergent Christians from the apostolic age to the dividing of the ways between the Greek East and the Latin West. Revised edition Penguin (1993)
- Jehovah Witness – Should you believe in the Trinity (1989)? Watch Tower Bible and Track Society of Pennsylvania.
- Strong, James – The New Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (1996) Thomas Nelson, Tennessee (US)
- Shelley, Bruce. L. The Church History in Plain Language 1995): Word Publishing: Dallas, Texas.
- The Oxford Bible Commentary Edited by John Barton & John Muddiman: Oxford University Press (2001)
- The Peake's Commentary on the Bible
- The New Bible Commentary, 21st Century Edition
About the author
Joseph Annor is married to Janet and they have two children Emmanuel (12 years) and Michael (8 years). Joseph has a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) degree majoring in Studies of Religions with Classical History. Joseph also has a Graduate Diploma in Accounting from Monash University (Melbourne) and a Master of Business in Accounting from University of Technology, Sydney. He is a member of CPA Australia.
For instance, the Roman Senate is said to have erected in his honour the Arch that stands today by the Colosseums, depicting the drowning of Maxentius' troops and proclaiming in its inscription that Constantine won 'by the prompting of the deity'. The deity to whom they referred was the Unconquered Sun (Chadwick, 1993). Probably adopted from Palestine and inserted into it some series of phrases: "True God of True God, begotten not made, of one substance with the Father" (Shelley, 1995).
Some Christians claim that Elijah, Enoch and others went to heaven. Yet, Jesus himself clearly stated that no one has ever ascended into heaven. Since the discussion of this topic is beyond the scope of this paper and not directly related, I will defer any further discussion of this issue for another paper in the future. Suffice to say that whilst on the surface the Bible appears to indicate that Elijah and Enoch were taken up to heaven, they are actually not in heaven.
According to Armstrong (1985), God can project his spirit to any place regardless of distance and through his Spirit, God is able to act on objects or to change it as he wills, thus, making God omnipresent.
Below are some instances where pour was applied to the Holy Spirit.
- Is 32:15 – Until a spirit from on high is poured out on us…
- Is 44:3 – I will pour my spirit upon your descendents…
- Eze 39:29 – and I will never hide my face on them, when I pour out my spirit upon the house of Israel, says the Lord God
- Joel 2: 28 - then afterwards I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh…
- Joel 2: 29 - Even on the male and female slaves, in those days, I will pour out my spirit.
- Acts 2: 17 - in the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy…
- Acts 2:18 - Even upon slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my spirit; in those shall prophesy…
- Acts 2: 33 - Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you both see and hear.
- Titus 3: 6 This Spirit he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Saviour.
Despite that the 'spirit' is mentioned almost as many times in the Old Testament as it is mentioned in the New Testament. Please see below some references of the Old Testament use of the Spirit. Gen 41: 38; Ex 31:3; 35:31; Num 24:2; 27:18; Judg 3:10; 6:34; 1Sa 10:6; 10:10; 11:6; 2 Sa 23:2; 2 Chronicles 15:1; Job 27:3; 33:4; Is 11:2; 42:1; 48:16; Ezek 11: 5; 11:19; 36:26.