Does the Bible say God is a trinity?
Many Christian denominations teach the doctrine of the trinity. According to the Encyclopædia Britannica, the trinity is the Christian belief in “the unity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as three persons in one Godhead.”
However, it is important to note that God is never described as being part of a trinity in the Bible. In fact, God is always described as a singular entity in the Bible.
Note these Bible passages:
“Jehovah our God is one Jehovah.”
“You, whose name is Jehovah, you alone are the Most High over all the earth.”
“God is only one.”
Even Jesus, himself, commanded that God alone should be worshipped.
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’”
Considering that God is described as a singular entity in the Bible, it is important to examine why the majority of Christian denominations teach that God is part of a trinity.
The Catholic Church admits that the trinity doctrine was invented in the late 4th century.
“The impression could arise that the Trinitarian dogma is in the last analysis a late 4th-century invention. In a sense, this is true . . . 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.”
—New Catholic Encyclopedia (1967), Volume 14, page 299
In order to understand how the trinity document came to be, we must critically examine the history of the Christian faith.
In the first centuries after Jesus, Christians were persecuted by the Romans. There was no official bible. In fact, the beliefs of the early Christians were quite diverse.
By the 4th century, we find that Christianity had grown exponentially and spread. The Christians were once persecuted by Romans but now they were gaining power. The Roman Emperor Constantine decided he wanted to bring the Christians under his leadership despite the fact that he was a pagan.
Constantine made Christianity Rome’s state religion. However, he had a problem – Christianity was undefined.
Christianity in 4th century didn’t have a unified vision of who Jesus was.
In the 2nd and 3rd century, many were asking: who exactly was Jesus? Some thought he was God and others thought he was the creation of God. God has a different meaning today than it did back then.
The Roman Empire was heavily influenced by Hellenistic religion, philosophy and culture. Polytheistic religion — Zeus and lower gods. Henotheistic pagans — meaning there is a great God, and lower minor gods. Even rulers themselves were frequently worshipped as gods. Jesus was called the “son of God.” How would a Roman interpret that? Gentiles would have naturally understood Christian preaching about the “son of God” having been begotten by another. Lower gods were called “son of god.” Emperors like Octavius and Vespasian were called “son of God.” Take a look at how the gentiles interpreted things, through the lens of their culture: They thought Paul and Barnabus were gods.
The controversy began when Arius, an Alexandrian priest, questioned the full divinity of Christ because, unlike God, Christ was born and had a beginning. What began as an academic theological debate spread to Christian congregations throughout the empire, threatening a schism in the early Christian church. Roman Emperor Constantine I, who allegedly converted to Christianity in 312, called bishops from all over his empire to resolve the crisis and urged the adoption of a new creed that would resolve the ambiguities between Christ and God.
The bishops were expected to resolve their differences and depart in unity.
According to historians, 1800 bishops were invited, approximately 300 showed up. The council was held in the summer of 325.
The main point to figure out in that council was: is Jesus God? Or the creation of God?
Another issue they discussed was Easter as the gospels disagree on the day.
Arius, himself, attended the council, as did his bishop, Alexander. Also there were Eusebius of Caesarea, Eusebius of Nicomedia and the young deacon Athanasius, who would become the champion of the Trinitarian view.
The council was presided over by the emperor himself, who participated in and even led some of its discussions so his political influence was very much present.
Arius argued that the Son had a beginning–only the Son was directly created and begotten of God. There was a time that He had no existence. He also argued that the Holy Spirit was God’s creation. He was capable of His own free will.
Arius used Scripture to argue that Jesus was not the absolute God. Alexander The First (the Pope of Alexandria) argued that Christ was God. Arius was condemned. On June 19, 325. Arius and two of his supporters exiled to Alera (The Balkans currently) The books of Arius were burned and the emperor Constantine put out the following edict:
“I hereby make a public order, that if someone should be discovered to have hidden a writing composed by Arius, and not to have immediately brought it forward and destroyed it by fire, his penalty shall be death.”
— Edict by Emperor Constantine against the Arians
Constantine was not a bystander he was leading the debate. Constantine intimidated Arius’ supporters in the vote. Fear made people step back from their original stance. Constantine oppressed whoever opposed him, even his cousins and close ones
They portray Constantine as someone who gave freedom to all those who agreed with him and opposed him. But look at his order to exile and kill those who opposed him
The goal of holding this council was to destroy Arius and spread the pagan belief that Jesus was God.
Shenouda The Third, late Pope of the coptic orthodox church, said:
Arius used to deny the Divinity of Christ, and see that he was less than the father in essence, and that he was created. And the Arian roots are still present until today. Even after it was condemned by the Ecumenical council of Nicaea in 325 A.D, Arius and his followers (The Arians) [who came] after him remained a reason for trouble/exhaustion and disunity and doubt to the Holy church.
The Nature of Christ
Shanouda’s quote is referring to Jehova’s Witnesses who still teach the Arian view that Jesus is created.
In fact, half of those who were present in the Council of Nicaea were originally supporting Arius, or were neutral. Priests still admit this fact in their books until today.
“…as Saint Athanasius, who was an eyewitness and one of the members of the council, has mentioned in a speech of his that in the beginning sixteen bishops were supporting Arius, and twenty two bishops were supporting Pope Alexander, and the rest of them had a neutral stance. And by the end of the Council, only two bishops remained supportive to Arius, and they were Secundus and Theonas, whom refused to sign/adhere to the creed of the Council with the rest of the priests whom were attached to them.”
The Christian Ecumenical Councils – The Ecumenical Councils and Heresies – Bishop Bishoy, a late Coptic Orthodox bishop
The question must be asked, what was the motivation?
The emperor Constantine wanted total obedience, similar to the Pharaohs who made themselves successor to Horus. Having control of the church would enable the Emperor to obtain such power as the church would be the one to decide religious law. And the emperor would have the spokesperson of God in his hands. How could anyone disobey him?
The word “trinity” is never mentioned in the bible so where did the concept come from?
The trinity is an ancient concept. Consider in Hinduism, the Trimurti, the triad of gods — Brahma, Shiva, and Vishnu. The Ancient Egyptians had Osiris, Isis, Horus. Greco Roman culture had demigods, half god half mortal, also a trinity (father, mother and child). In fact, the Greco-Roman religions were filled with tales of gods procreating with human beings and begetting god-men. The belief that God could incarnate as man, or that there were sons of God, were common and popular beliefs in this culture.
Just consider the tales of demigods such as Hercules. Zeus is said to have come to the human woman Alcmena, disguised as her husband and Alcmena bore Hercules, a “god-man.” In another story Zeus visited the human woman Danae in the form of golden rain and fathered Perseus, a “god-man.”
Such tales bear a striking similarity to Trinitarian beliefs of God being begotten as a man.
The Church Fathers’ conception of the Trinity was a combination of Jewish monotheism and pagan polytheism. For the emperor, such an affiliation with God was ideal. And it was not a new concept. It happened in Rome before with Julius Caesar
An inscription dedicated to Julius Caesar discovered in Ephesus in 49 BCE says:
“Descendant of Ares and Aphrodite The God who has become manifest and universal savior of human life”
– Iris Sulimani, Diodorus’ Mythistory and the Pagan Mission: Historiography and Culture, p. 288.
So Julius Caesar was thought of as “God manifest as man,” and “the saviour of mankind.”
Doesn’t this sound familiar? Essentially, the Hellenistic religion was swapped with Christianity and the consolidation of the emperor’s power was complete.
The Council of Nicea aligned the authority of the Catholic church with the governing authority of Rome. Constantine wanted to use the Christian faith to unify his fragmented Empire.
Following the Council of Nicea in A.D. 325, the First Council of Constantinople was held in A.D. 381. During this Council, it was decided which books should be included in the official canon of the New Testament. There was then a concerted effort to standardise Christian doctrines and to promote an agreed canon of New Testament scriptures. So some of the “apocryphal” writings were side-lined, or even suppressed.
By the end of the 4th Century, the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were widely accepted as integral to the 27 texts which constitute the New Testament. Together with the Old Testament, these form the canon of Christian scriptures. Over 50 Gospels were excluded from the Bible.
Christianity, as we know it today, was heavily influenced by the politics of 4th century Rome.