The Doctrine Of The Trinity
he doctrine of the Trinity, or the triune nature of God's existence, has been debated for many centuries. From the outset, I will note that many, many early heretical ideas came forth from those that addressed this issue, so we are on 'high alert' as we probe the subject. In this regard, we are fully aware that many modern heresies are only variations on ancient doctrinal issues that were related to the momentous battles waged over the truth in ancient times.
In the contemporary arena, it is appropriate to note that our ministry has been periodically criticized by those that claim the doctrine of the Trinity is a Catholic invention, and that we should not support it. Thus, we look not only at the Scriptures for the truth of the matter, but we also look to those that came before us, for we recognize issues of this nature were thoroughly analyzed a very long time ago.
As we believe we are in the end times and are scheduled to have significant understanding of the mysteries of God as the reckoning approaches, we choose to address the doctrine of the Trinity. As many in our time have sought to come to a full knowledge of the truth, and part of that process has been to distance ourselves from Catholic originated traditions and heresies, some have assumed that various complex doctrines, such as the doctrine of the Trinity, must also be heretical. Thus, I will say at the outset that, although we study earlier writer's views, we do not derive our perception of the nature of God through the traditions of the last two thousand years, but from the Scriptures themselves.
The Bible itself does not use the word "trinity." It is believed the word was first used by the early church father Tertullian (about 160 to 220 AD at Carthage). The New Testament does say in a few verses that there is the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. But the issue has been over the wording of I John 5: 7-8:
"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."
These may be the most disputed verses in the New Testament.
I John 5: 7-8 in the Textus Receptus Greek (from which the KJV is derived) reads as follows: oti trei eisin oi marturounte en tw ouranw o pathr o logo kai to agion pneuma kai outoi oi trei en eisin 8 kai trei eisin oi marturounte en th gh to pneuma kai to udwr kai to aima kai oi trei ei to en eisin.
The same verses in the Westcott-Hort Greek allegedly say the following: oti trei eisin oi marturounte 8 to pneuma kai to udwr kai to aima kai oi trei ei to en eisin.
Even if you don't read Greek, you can see that the Westcott-Hort text leaves out many words. Thus, when one sets out to conduct a study of the Trinity, he or she is immediately confronted with the adjacent issue of which Bible (or which manuscript) is the genuine word of God. For example, I John 5: 7-8 in the American Standard Version reads:
"And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three who bear witness, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and the three agree in one."
It's not real clear in the American Standard Version that I John 5:7-8 is even talking about the Trinity, which is the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Note, for example, that in the King James Version, Christ is called the Word whereas the term is not used in the ASV in that verse.
The Revised Standard Version just says "There are three that testify. the Spirit and the water and the blood, and these three agree," whereas the New International Version reads "For there are three that testify: the Spirit, the water and the blood: and the three are in agreement." These versions are derived from the Westcott-Hort text.
The Douay-Rheims (Catholic) says: "And there are three who give testimony in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost. And these three are one. And there are three that give testimony on earth: the spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three are one."
The Catholic Douay-Rheims Version agrees with the Textus Receptus and the King James Version. Its interesting that the Douay-Rheims has a clearer statement of the doctrine of the Trinity than the modern translations which are Westcott-Hort derived translations. The issue becomes more apparent when we look closer at the King James wording for I John 5: 7-8, said by the followers of Westcot-Hort not to exist in early Greek texts.
For instance, the NIV Study Bible says that I John 5:7 "...is not found in any Greek manuscript or New Testament translation prior to the 16th century." Like other statements penned by propagandists employed by the private corporation that controls the NIV, This is not altogether accurate.
In his commentary on I John 5:7, John Gill says of the mention of the text by early church fathers that it is cited "... by Fulgentius, in the beginning of the 'sixth' century, against the Arians, without any scruple or hesitation; and Jerome, as before observed, has it in his translation made in the latter end of the 'fourth' century; and it is cited by Athanasius about the year 350; and before him by Cyprian, in the middle, of the 'third' century, about the year 250; and is referred to by Tertullian about, the year 200." In other words, there is a significant body of historical data showing this verse was indeed found in the manuscripts that were available to these historical figures.
As another case in point, Tertullian, in about 215 AD in Adversus Praxeam, has a lot to say about the Trinity. He has many partial quotes of New Testament verses. In this book, (whose title simply means Against Praxeas), in Chapter 25, he says
"'And so the connection of the Father, and the Son, and of the Paraclete [Holy Spirit] makes three cohering entities, one cohering from the other, which three are one entity' refers to the unity of their substance, not the oneness of their number."
One observer has noted "Since Cyprian wrote the disputed passage in Latin I feel it necessary to list Cyprian's words in Latin. Cyprian wrote, "Dicit dominus, Ego et pater unum sumus (John x. 30), et iterum de Patre, et Filio, et Spiritu Sancto scriptum est, Et tres unum sunt" (The Lord says, "I and the Father are One," and again, of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost it is written: "And the three are One."). This Latin reading is important when you compare it to the Old Latin reading of 1 John 5:7; "Quoniam tres sunt, gui testimonium dant in coelo: Pater, Verbum, et Spiritus sanctus: et hi tres unum sunt."
Cyprian clearly says that it is written of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost -- "And the three are One." His Latin matches the Old Latin reading identically with the exception of 'hi'...There is no other verse that expressly states that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are 'three in one' outside of 1 John 5:7." The "Old Latin" text is not Jerome's Vulgate, but an earlier Latin Bible used by the Waldenses and others in Europe.
This is apparently from the Treatises of Cyprian who lived from about 200 to 258 AD. He is saying that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one, not meaning that the Godhead is made up only of one person, but that the three persons of the Godhead are united in agreement. Therefore, the statement of the NIV that the Spirit, the water and the blood are in agreement is not nearly as clear that it is referring to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Others have also noted the fact that the modern translators are in error when they claim there is no scriptural authority for I John 5 7-8 prior to the 16th century, as is alleged by the proponents of the Never Inspired Version:
"It is not true that I John 5:7 is absent in all pre-16th century Greek manuscripts and New Testament translations. The text is found in eight extant Greek manuscripts, and five of them are dated before the 16th century (Greek miniscules 88, 221, 429, 629, 636). Furthermore, there is abundant support for I John 5:7 from the Latin translations. There are at least 8000 extant Latin manuscripts, and many of them contain 1 John 5:7f; the really important ones being the Old Latin, which church fathers such as Tertullian (AD 155-220) and Cyprian (AD 200-258) used.
"Now, out of the very few Old Latin manuscripts with the fifth chapter of First John, at least four of them contain the Comma. Since these Latin versions were derived from the Greek New Testament, there is reason to believe that I John 5:7 has very early Greek attestation, hitherto lost."
The shortening of I John 5: 7-8 in the Westcott-Hort Greek text of 1881 down to an unclear statement about the Spirit, the water and the blood being in "agreement" may be consistent with second and third century AD Gnostic doctrines about Jesus Christ. Many Gnostics thought that the Christ was an Aeon created by the Eternal Father, who was a spirit, but not the God of the Bible. Arius specifically taught that Christ was a created being and not God. We don't have proof that Gnostics changed the wording of I John 5:7-8. But there are many other omissions and changes in the Westcott-Hort Greek text (which underlies every contemporary translation EXCEPT the King James) that seem to agree with Gnostic theology.
This would be a good place to note the occultic background of Hort and Westcott. Co-founders of something called The Ghostly Guild, these two British translators were closely associated with what is now called spirit channeling. Yet, the Westcott-Hort Greek-English text is the primary bridge between ancient aberrant manuscripts and every modern translation in print today! Thus, the translation controversy is far more important than most so-called "authorities" suggest. For more on this, see The King James Controversy by the present author.
One logical way to approach this is to simply 'connect the dots.' With this technique, we may posit the more verse changes we find that are in agreement with Gnosticism, the more support there is for the idea of Gnostic changes in the Bible. But the followers of Westcott and Hort (those that believe the NIV, RSV, ASV, CEV, etc are actually viable as the Scriptures) will probably not accept that as decisive proof. Neither would they accept as decisive proof quotes of Scripture by early Church fathers or very early texts that the wordings of the Textus Receptus go back to the second or first centuries or to the original autographs written by the Apostles.
The most decisive proof that the King James Version and the Greek Textus Receptus are accepted by God as his word is the fruit these two texts have created since Erasmus published his first edition of the Textus Receptus in 1516 and the King James Version came out in 1611.
I John 5: 7-8 is not the only statement of the Trinity in the New Testament. There are other verses that plainly present the doctrine of the Trinity. Consider Matthew 28:19, John 14:26, & Matthew 3: 16-17:
"Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost" (Matthew 28:19).
"But when the Comforter (the Holy Spirit) is come, whom I (Jesus) will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me" (John 14:26).
"and Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: and to a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matthew 3: 16-17).
Notice that the Father states "This is my beloved Son, IN whom I am well pleased." Note also how the wording is "in whom," as opposed to 'with whom.' Why "in whom?" Because Jesus was deity in the flesh. The Word was made flesh. In Jesus Christ dwelt the fullness of the Godhead bodily.
In Colossians 2:9, we see "For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily." In Jesus Christ dwells the fullness (completion) of the Godhead (deity) bodily (in the flesh). Jesus Christ was in-filled with the deity of God in the flesh. Jesus was the physical representation of God. The Word became flesh in John 1:14. Deity became flesh.
It might also be noted that early Christians debated the nature of this union of the three personalities of the LORD, as well as the nature of Christ in terms of His humanity versus His deity. One group, called the monophysites (as in one physical nature) were particularly representative of those that followed the Alexandrian school of thought (as in Alexandria Egypt).
They stressed Christ's divinity and his role as teacher of divine truth whereas the Antiochians (as in Antioch Syria) emphasized Christ's human nature as they believed His humanity was crucial to the LORD's salvation program. These two streams of thought erupted in theological battles that thoroughly politicized the early church and undoubtedly spilled over into the various efforts at translating the Scriptures.
Because the present work is emphasizing the actual triune configuration of God (as opposed to the nature of each personality at a given stage), we shall set aside that particular controversy. I only reference it herein because the adjacent issue of Scriptural lineage is directly related to the study at hand. However, it should be said that it's clear the Alexandrians became the conduit for the Gnostic oriented aberrant manuscripts later adopted by the occultists Westcott and Hort; whereas the Antiochians were the primary center for the dissemination of the Textus Receptus which was culminated in the KJV. Once again, we have long believed the King James Version is the only Bible that can be trusted.
Christian Media host and author Sue Patterson has presented the Trinity in the following fashion:
"The easiest way to explain the Godhead is that there is the Father (Deity), and the Son (Flesh) and the Holy Ghost (Spirit). They are three offices/positions. Jesus Christ is our mediator to God 'For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus' (I Timothy 2:5). "We cannot reach God without Jesus Christ. He is our conduit to God (the Father). For deity (the Father) cannot deal with our sinful flesh. Therefore the Son, who is in-filled by deity closes the gap between man and God. Now since Jesus Christ is not physically here on earth, the Holy Ghost which is the Spirit of God (Father) and the Spirit of Truth (Son) is sent to us from the Father in the name of the Son to minister to us by His Spirit. These three agree in one for they are one. But they are different offices. "I might explain it in the following way. My husband (George) is a husband to me. He is also a son to his father. He is also a father to his son. Three offices or positions. Husband, son, father. Yet all three are one. George. They also all agree as one. In the same manner, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are all one, and they all agree as one."
There are many verses in Scripture which implicitly address the existence of the Trinity, even if they do not explicitly articulate the issue. For instance John 14 tells us that Jesus says
"...I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever. Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you" (John 14:16,17).
I note in this verse the Comforter is evidently referred to as a "he" as opposed to an it ("...he may abide with you forever"). This same 'triple entity' type of reference is also found in John 14:26:
"But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you" (John 14: 26).
As is the case with other doctrinal issues where it appears the LORD repeats something several times to be sure we get it, He does it a third time in John 15:
"But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me" (John 15:26).
Incredibly, 13 verses later, he establishes this triune construction in His words a fourth time:
"Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: but he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you" (John 15:13-15).
In the Acts of the Apostles, we also find a reference to the Holy Spirit as a distinctive personality, asserting His will in the first person tense. In the 13th chapters, when the text has just mentioned the prophets that were at Antioch, we read
"As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them" (Acts 13:2).
The Apostle Paul also has more of the indirect types of statements that would certainly seem to embrace the concept of the Trinity. In Romans, he writes
"But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit [the Holy Ghost] if so be that the Spirit of God [the Father] dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ [the Son], he is none of his" (Romans 8:9).
The learned Apostle does it again in Ephesians:
"That he would grant you...to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and lengthy, and depth, and height: And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God" (Ephesians 3:16-19).
It's intriguing to note there is a similar verse in I John which also indirectly speaks of the three-fold presence of God. This one is particularly important because it is in I John the attacks have been made in the manuscript wars by the Alexandrians that claim I John 5:7,8 are later additions to the text. In chapter 4 of I John, we read
"Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God" (I John 4:1,2).
I see all three members of the Trinity in that verse. Incidentally, this particular text is doubly priceless, for it also addresses the characteristics of the opposite camp in the phrase "the spirit of Antichrist." But we'll have to leave that subject for another day.
In summary, the Scriptures plainly detail the need for a recognition and response to the Spirit of God. Indeed, although "all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness," we find that without the indwelling presence of the Spirit of God in the form of the Holy Ghost, we can never fully "comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and lengthy, and depth, and height...[of] the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God" (Ephesians 3:18,19).
-- James Lloyd
[portions of the above essay were contributed by Bernard Pyron and Sue Patterson of the Christian Media online fellowship group, and this author is indebted to them. See firstname.lastname@example.org for details]
©2002 CHRISTIAN MEDIA RESEARCH, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
See Also the trilogy of post-exile books anticipating the trinity in the Old Testament