D. C. Thielmann - Biblical Scholar and Author

The Trinity: A Repugnant Christian Doctrine

D. C. Thielmann - Biblical Scholar & Author

The Trinity: A Repugnant Christian Doctrine

The Trinity: A non-Biblical Christian Doctrine

The Trinity

The matter of the Trinity Doctrine of Christianity is a concept that did not originate from either Scripture or Christianity. The concept of the Trinity originated from pagan beliefs surrounding the Egyptian gods as written about some 200 to 300 years before Jesus by the mythical figure Thoth Hermes Trismegistus, and adopted into Greek philosophy. There were actually four different stages of development of the Trinity Doctrine of Christianity before it reached its finalization in 381CE, (350 years after the time of Jesus), which is the Trinity Doctrine still used by most Christians today. It is true though, that there are nine different Christian denominations that identify as, non-Trinitarian, meaning that they reject the Trinity Doctrine.

Even Philo of Alexandria, (a contemporary of Jesus, yet totally unaware of Jesus and early Christianity), became a “Hellenized Jew” by being influenced by this Greek philosophy of the Trinity, and thus, ended up being viewed as a pariah to Judaism as a consequence For Philo adopted this concept of the Trinity into many of his writings, which was repugnant to the majority of Jews even though Philo’s concept differed slightly from the Greek philosophy concept in that Philo never equated the Trinity into being one-in-the-same existence as it was with the Egyptian gods and pagan/Greek philosophy.

Individuals who claim that the Trinity Doctrine of Christianity is indeed clearly outlined in the New Testament are generally referring to the words found in 1 John 5:7, “For there are three giving testimonies in Heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.” Yet, the fact is that everything following the word, “testimonies” is a later addition that was handwritten into the margins of the original manuscripts,[i] and it is obvious that this later addition was made by someone who was an advocate for the concept that the Trinity Doctrine must be found somewhere in Scripture.

The “three giving testimonies,” according to 1 John 5:7, are the pater, (“father,” ab in Hebrew), the logos, (“word,” “speech,” “utterance,” or “message,” dabar in Hebrew), and the hagios pneuma, (“consecrated breath,” neshamah in Hebrew). Yet, the fact is that the “word,” dabar, does not “give testimony in heaven,” it only “gives testimony” here on earth, (Deuteronomy 32:1; Isaiah 1:2; Jeremiah 6:19; 22:29; Psalm 33:6; 50:4). Likewise, the “consecrated breath,” neshamah, which became the nephesh hayah, (“living being,” or “soul alive”), also does not “give testimony in heaven,” (Job 12:10; 27:3; 33:4; 34:14-15; Isaiah 42:5; Psalm 33:6; 104:29-30; Ecclesiastes 3:19-21). This is precisely why the addition that was made to 1 John 5:7 is so erroneous and repugnant!

Another verse that is used to claim that the Trinity is mentioned in Scripture is John 14:9-17. Yet, the statement by Jesus in John 17:20-23 seems to indicate that all “believers” are a part of the Trinity, and not just the “Father, Son, and Holy spirit.” Furthermore, Jesus’ own statement earlier in this same chapter of the Gospel of John, John 17:3, clearly separates the “only true God” from Jesus by way of the usage of the Greek word, kai, which means, “and,” and which would be an inappropriate usage if in fact Jesus intended to be understood as indicating that he and God were one-in-the-same “essence!”

Since so many verses of Scripture get used to attempt to justify the Trinity Doctrine it would be far too lengthy to try and discuss each and every one of them. Yet, it is necessary to mention one other verse that gets used in attempts to justify the Trinity Doctrine, and this verse being, John 20:28. The simplest way to refute the claims that the Trinity can be found in this verse is by pointing out that John clearly separates Jesus from God by way of referring to Jesus as, kurios, “lord,” or “master,” (which can refer to anyone in “authority”), and to God as, Theos, a Greek word, which has as its only genuine meanings, “a transcendent being,” “God.”

As Catherine Mowry LaCugna, states,[ii] “It would help if the Catechism clarified that while the truth that would later be expressed by trinitarian doctrine is found at the origins of Christianity, there is no doctrine of the Trinity per se in Scripture. Certainly, one can find the basic data that later (in the fourth century) emerge in the doctrine, but it would be anachronistic to look for the doctrine per se in the New Testament.”

Again, since there are so many verses of Scripture, (mostly from the Hebrew Scriptures), that Christianity attempts to utilize as justification to establish the Trinity Doctrine it would take an entire book to demonstrate the errors in Christian interpretation of all of these verses from Scripture that are claimed to establish the Trinity Doctrine. Yet, many scholars have already discussed and refuted these erroneous Christian interpretations of these verses, (that claim that the Trinity can be found in the Hebrew Scriptures, as well as in the Greek Scriptures), separately and in many different books.[iii]

Now, John Dominic Crossan claims that, “All religions that I have ever known or can ever imagine are Trinitarian in structure… There is, first of all, that ultimate referent known in supreme metaphors as power, person, state, or order, as nature, goddess or god, nirvana, or way. There is next, some material manifestation, some person, place, or thing, some individual or collectivity, some cave or shrine or temple, some clearing in the forest or tree in the desert where that ultimate referent is met and experienced. There is, finally, at least one faithful believer to begin with and eventually more to end with.”[iv]

Crossan does indeed make a good point. Yet, Crossan fails to clearly explain that the Trinity Doctrine of Christianity is a unique concept in regards to his analogy. For the Trinity of Christianity believes that the “ultimate referent” – “God the Father” – the “manifestation,” of the “ultimate referent” – “Jesus” the “son of God” – and the “Holy Spirit – which fills the “faithful believer,” through their belief in the “manifestation” of “the “ultimate referent,” are all one in the same existence! But in Crossan’s analogy the three are all distinctly separate existences that will always remain three distinctly separate existences, and which will never become one in the same existence as in the Trinity of Christianity.

To demonstrate the error of the Trinity of Crossan, and the Trinity of Christianity we will examine a mirror analogy utilizing a “faucet” as the “ultimate referent,” a “cup” filled from the “faucet” as the “manifestation,” and a “thirsty individual” as the “faithful believer.” The “faucet,” the “cup,” and the “thirsty individual” are all three separate existences in the Trinity process of quenching one’s thirst, which never become one-in-the-same existence. The problem arising from Crossan’s analogy, the mirror analogy, and the Trinity of Christianity is that another separate existence is left out, and this being, the “water” – the “Word” – which is created by the “ultimate referent,” given to the “manifestation,” to fill the “faithful believer!”

The “Word” derives from an “alphabet” that had to first be created by God,[v] and anything that had to first be created by God in order to come into existence will always be a separate existence from God! Therefore, the “Word,” (represented by the “water”), created by the “ultimate referent,” God, (represented by the “faucet”), comes through the “material manifestation,” an individual, (represented by the “cup”), and is delivered to the “faithful believer,” (represented by the “thirsty individual”), which is a reflection of what is stated in Isaiah 55:10-11.

But “God,” the “prophet,” and the “faithful believers” are never one in the same existence. For the “water” eventually passes from the body as waste and over time returns to its original form, so too does the “Word,” which was created by “God,” to be delivered by the “prophet” to the “faithful believer” in order to bring life to the “faithful believer” through the “Holy Spirit.” Upon our deaths, the “Word” returns to its origins to be passed along again to another “thirsty individual,”[vi] as it says in Ecclesiastes 12:7: “And the dust returns to the ground as it was, and the life-breath returns to God who bestowed it.”

St. Augustine, The City of God, xi, x once stated in regards to the Trinity that, “it is for this reason, then, that the nature of the Trinity is called simple, because it has not anything which it can lose, and because it is not one thing and its contents another, as a cup and the liquid… For none of these is what it has … those things which are essentially and truly divine are called simple, because in them quality and substance are identical.” Yet, St. Augustine in his defense of the Trinity Doctrine apparently does not recognize that it is simply impossible to equate the “quality and substance” of a man with God who has no “substance.”

For as Hosea 11:9 clearly tells us, “… For I am God, and not a man.”

When Paul, in Colossians 1:15, designates Jesus as the είχων τοΰ θεοΰ τοΰ αορατου, “image of the invisible God,” the meaning that Paul, the Jew (even though a he was a Hellenized Jew), desired to convey is best interpreted from the perspective of the Hebrew/Jewish understanding. For there is a vast difference between the pagan Greek/gentile understanding of this statement and the Jewish understanding of this statement.

The Jewish understanding of this statement would simply mean “the aggregate of the qualities of the invisible God.”[vii] Yet, if this statement is interpreted by way of pagan Greek understandings, then the meaning would only be similar to the Hebrew in form, yet the interpretation would be quite the opposite. For in pagan Greek thinking this would mean “the becoming visible on earth of the invisible God.”[viii]

As John Shelby Spong rightly states,[ix] “God was one, Holy, and Sovereign for the Jewish Paul. The idea of a coequal trinity of Persons in the Godhead had not yet been born. Had Paul been alive when that idea did emerge, I suspect he would have resisted vigorously. Paul was certainly not a Trinitarian, as that concept came to be defined in later Greek-influenced theological discussions.”

In regards to the Trinity the most essential question that begs to be asked is, how can three separate existences equal one, especially when God is portrayed as the main aspect of the Trinity equation?

As A. J. Heschel rightly states,[x] “For how can we designate Him by a number? A number is one of a series of symbols used in arranging quantities, in order to set them in a relation to one another. Since God is not in time or space, not a part of a series, ‘the term “one” is just as inapplicable to God as the term “many”; for both unity and plurality are categories of quantity, and are, therefore, as inapplicable to God as crooked and straight in reference to sweetness, or salted and insipid in reference to a voice,’ (Maimonides, The Guide of the Perplexed, p. 57).”

The Trinity question of how can three equal one is impossible to try and answer logically even though many attempts to logically answer this question have been made by many individuals ever since the second century CE! Yet, even Jesus himself knows absolutely nothing about the concept of the Trinity by way of his clear teaching in Matthew 24:36; Mark 13:32 that, “But of that day and that hour knows no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the son, but the Father.”

Ron Rhodes is an example of one of the many individuals attempting to logically explain the Trinity in regards to what is stated in Matthew 24:36; Mark 13:32. As Rhodes attempts to logically explain these verses,[xi] “In his humanity, Jesus was not omniscient but was limited in understanding just as all human beings are. If Jesus had been speaking from the perspective of His divinity, He would not have said the same thing.” This is a totally ridiculous, and illogical explanation for one to make while trying to maintain that Jesus and God are one-in-the-same in the Trinity!

A further example of Ron Rhodes giving a totally illogical explanation of the Trinity is when he states,[xii] “The triune Godhead has one essence (a divine essence or nature) but three distinct persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit).” If the “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” are “three distinct persons” then it is absolutely impossible for them to be the same “essence!” For as one finds it clearly being stated by Paul in Titus 2:13, God and Jesus are divided into two separate “essences” once again, as noted already above, by the usage of the Greek word kai, “and,” which again is used to separate the two different “essences” of God and Jesus!

Now, this statement by Jesus in Matthew 24:36; Mark 13:32 is seemingly contradicted by what is stated in John 16:30, which even Rhodes notes. Yet, when looked at carefully one recognizes that John 16:30 clearly states that Jesuscame from God” and not that Jesus and God are one-in-the-same existence! Richard Rubenstein points out that this is an old Church debate and argument when he states that, “this was a brave attempt to formulate a doctrine of Christ’s dual nature, but the result was to turn Jesus into a kind of schizoid creature: a fallible, vulnerable human personality attached (but how?) to an omniscient, omnipotent, timeless God personality.”[xiii]

Another example demonstrating that Jesus knows nothing about the Trinity is found in Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 19:17; Mark 10:18; Luke 18:19. So, if God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are one-in-the-same existence according to the Trinity Doctrine, then why would the son not know what the Father knows, (Matthew 24:36; Mark 13:32)? If they are separate in knowledge, then they cannot be one-in-the-same in the Trinity! Likewise, if Jesus teaches, “why call me good … only God is good,” (Matthew 19:17; Mark 10:18; Luke 18:19), then Jesus is clearly teaching that he and God are separate existences and not one-in-the-same existence according to the Trinity Doctrine![xiv]

D. James Kennedy,[xv] provides a further example in defense of the Trinity by citing a math equation used by many critics of the Trinity Doctrine, and this being the equation, 1+1+1=3. Yet, Kennedy in his defense of the Trinity Doctrine alters the equation to being, 1x1x1=1. But attempting to justify and explain the Trinity Doctrine in this manner creates the assumption that God consists of some sort of physical attribute that can be multiplied by a physical attribute of some other existence. Yet, as noted above from Colossians 3:15, God is the “invisible God,” Who does not have any physical attributes, and therefore, the actual equation would have to then be, 0x1x1=0.

In other words, the “invisible God” is the Supreme Nothingness, which has no physical attributes, and therefore, He can neither be added together, or multiplied together with anything else! This is precisely what the Hebrew word translated out as “one” in the Shema, (Deuteronomy 6:4), connotes – “uniqueness” – an existence without any physical attributes whatsoever! Thus, Kennedy’s attempt to justify the Trinity amounts to 0x1x1=0, or in other words, nothing but a desperate attempt to try and justify a pagan religious philosophy. Therefore, since God has no physical attributes, in order for Jesus to have been God Himself, then Jesus likewise would not, nor could have had any physical attributes.

The twelfth century Jewish Rabbi, Dr. of Medicine, and Philosopher, Maimonides, rightly states,[xvi] “If however, you belong to those whose aspirations are directed toward ascending to that high rank of speculation, and gaining certain knowledge with regard to God’s being One by virtue of a true Oneness, so that no composition is to be found in Him and no possibility of division in any way whatever – then you must know that He, may He be exalted, has in no way and in no mode any essential attribute, and that just as impossible that He should be a body, it is also impossible that He should possess an essential attribute.”

Maimonides then goes on further to state, “If, however, someone believes that He is one, but possesses a certain number of essential attributes, he says in his words that He is one, but believes Him in his thought to be many. This resembles what the Christians say: namely, that He is one but also three, and that the three are one … With regard to men of this category, it is said:[xvii] “Thou art near in their mouth, and far from their reins.”[xviii]

In regards to Deuteronomy 6:4, Reuven Hammer rightly discusses that this is most often translated as, “Hear, O Israel, The Lord our God, the Lord is One.” Yet, the last word in the Hebrew though, has a meaning of either “unique,” “one,” or even “alone.” Thus, it can be read with any of these meanings. Using the last definition is the most telling though. For when read as “alone” then it means that “there is only the God, and everything else is not God; everything else is that which God created.” In essence then, “We serve God alone.”[xix]

Now, D. James Kennedy[xx] is quite in error when he claims that the Hebrew word used in Deuteronomy 6:4 is ahad, with a meaning of, “united into one,” and not ehad, with the meaning of, “unique,” “one” or “alone.” Even though these two words are spelled the same with the only difference being the pronunciation of the alef, nonetheless, ahad and ehad are two different words having vastly different meanings.

The proof, which refutes D. James Kennedy’s claims regarding the Hebrew word ehad used in Deuteronomy 6:4 can be found in Jesus’ teaching in Mark 12:29, (which quotes Deuteronomy 6:4), Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 8:6, and James’ teaching in James 2:19, all of which use the Greek word, heis, in regards to God, which in its contextual usage in each of these verses the Greek word heis means, “a single entity,” “one.”[xxi]

Kennedy’s only purpose for making this claim though, is to try to justify his belief that the Trinity Doctrine can be found in Scripture everywhere the Hebrew word ehad is attached to the name of God. Kennedy claims that Jews were misled regarding the interpretation of Deuteronomy 6:4 by the twelfth century Jewish philosopher, Maimonides. But Kennedy is greatly in error here in this claim, for the Jewsstrong resistance to the Trinity Doctrine,” and manner of reading this Hebrew word existed long, long before the time of even Jesus as noted in the Mishnah, Berakhot 2:2.

D. James Kennedy does though, criticize some scholars and theologians attempts to justify the Trinity Doctrine when he states that,[xxii] “Still others have likened the Trinity to a person having three roles… But this analogy doesn’t bring us any closer to the truth of the Trinity. In fact, it leads us into an ancient heresy known as Modalist Monarchianism or Sabellianism (after the African-Roman priest, Sabellius, who proposed the idea). Sabellianists believed that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were just different modes or guises of the same Monarch (hence Modalist Monarchianism).”

The comments of Marcus Borg regarding the Trinity are a prime example of what Kennedy is referring to by this statement. For as Marcus Borg states in regards to the Trinity,[xxiii] “… it reconciles … monotheism by speaking of one God in three personae. This means something quite different from ‘persons’ in Modern English, where person commonly means a separate center of personality.”

Marcus Borg goes on to state, “Thus, popular notions of the Trinity commonly imagine God as a committee of three somewhat separate divine beings. But in both Greek and Latin, the word translated ‘person’ means a mask, such as that worn by an actor in the theater – not as a means of concealment, but as a way of playing different roles. Applying this to the notion of God, the One God is known in three primary ways: as the God of Israel, as the Word and Wisdom of God in Jesus, and as the abiding Spirit.”

But simply put, Borg’s comments are just another failed attempt to try and justify the Trinity Doctrine. For nowhere in the New Testament is the Trinity described by such a term as personae in the sense that Borg tries to make it appear to mean. God, is the “Father” to all of mankind, (Isaiah 63:16; Exodus 4:22; Deuteronomy 14:1), and as such, God is a completely separate existence from the “word and wisdom” that God puts into all of us, (His “children” – “sons” and “daughters”).

God is also not a “mask such as worn by an actor, playing a different role.” For such a designation would again make the assumption that God has some sort of physical attribute, which again, God does not possess but, which the “word and wisdom in Jesusdoes possess. Also, the “abiding spirit,” or in other words, the “consecrated breath” is another separate existence, which was given to all of mankind, (Genesis 2:7).

No matter how anyone attempts to try and rectify these three separate existences into being one existence of the Trinity Doctrine, it simply cannot be done! Borg’s attempt to justify the Trinity Doctrine by using the word personae, is simply repugnant. For by attempting to use personae, as Borg has, to justify the Trinity Doctrine, one actually finds that the personae of God, (designated by the many different Names of God used in the Hebrew Scriptures), far outnumber just three. Therefore, one cannot try to limit the personae of God to just three, such as Borg has attempted to do.

In closing, the analysis of the Trinity Doctrine made by Dr. Wendell Waters, professor emeritus in psychiatry, is quite correct when he states,[xxiv] “… The so-called Creed of Saint Athanasius represented an attempt to ‘clarify’ the church’s position on this aspect of doctrine.” Waters cites 25 lines of the Quicumque Vult from the Common Prayer Book, Anglican Church of Canada (1962), that are highly confusing, to which Waters further states, “If these lines had been written by a patient in the back-ward of a mental hospital, we would all agree that they represent an excellent example of the thought processes of a floridly psychotic obsessional.”

D. C. Thielmann (excerpts from my book, On Earth As It Is In Heaven, Volume I, On Earth As It Is In Heaven, Volume II).

[i]  Bruce M. Metzger, The Text of the New Testament, pp. 101-102.

[ii]  Catherine Mowry LaCugna, Commentary on the Catechism of the Catholic Church, p. 69.

[iii]  As an example, see, Abraham Cohen, Everyman’s Talmud, pp. 5-6.

[iv]  John Dominic Crossan, Who Killed Jesus, p. 215.

[v]  Isidor Kalish, A Book on Creation, n. 4, p. 50.

[vi]  John Shelby Spong, Resurrection: Myth or Reality? p. 112.

[vii]  See the comments of Elie Wiesel, Messengers of God, p. 6.

[viii]  Thorleif Boman, Hebrew Thought Compared with Greek, p. 121.

[ix]  John Shelby Spong, Born of a Woman, p. 25.

[x]  A. J. Heschel, Man Is Not Alone, p. 115.

[xi]  Ron Rhodes, What Did Jesus Mean? p. 26.

[xii]  Ron Rhodes, What Did Jesus Mean? p. 18.

[xiii] Richard E. Rubenstein, When Jesus Became God, pp. 99-100.

[xiv]  See Samuel Levine, You Take Jesus, I’ll Take God, pp. 77-78.

[xv]  D. James Kennedy, Solving Bible Mysteries, pp. 149-150.

[xvi]  Maimonides, The Guide of the Perplexed, I.50, 57a, pp. 111-112.

[xvii]  Jeremiah 12:2; and see also Isaiah 29:13.

[xviii]  Maimonides, The Guide of the Perplexed, I.50, 57a, pp. 111-112.

[xix]  Reuven Hammer, Entering Jewish Prayer, p. 123; and see also Louis Jacobs, Principles of the Jewish Faith, pp. 95-117.

[xx]  D. James Kennedy, Solving Bible Mysteries, pp. 155-157.

[xxi]  See BDAG Greek-English Lexicon, pp. 291-293; Liddell and Scott’s Greek-English Lexicon, p. 231.

[xxii]  D. James Kennedy, Solving Bible Mysteries, p. 152, and see also the similar comments of, John A. Sanford, The Kingdom Within, p. 71.

[xxiii]  Marcus Borg and N. T. Wright, The Meaning of Jesus: Two Versions, p. 154.

[xxiv]  Dr. Wendell W. Waters, Deadly Doctrine, pp. 34-35.

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