DID THE APOSTLES BELIEVE IN THE TRINITY?

by Dr. Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

The Trinity (LatinTrinitas,lit. 'triad') is the Christian doctrine which holds that God is three persons—the Father, the Son (Jesus Christ), and the Holy Spirit—in "one God ". The three persons are distinct, yet are one "substance, essence or nature" (homoousios).

This doctrine was first adopted by the church in an early church council presided over by the Emperor Constantine.  The Romans perceived Greek as a beautiful and romantic language—much as American view French. It is said that when the Emperor heard the word homoousios spoken, he found it so beautiful he immediately declared it to be doctrine.

The confusion over the doctrine no doubt has arisen from the interpretation of the word person.  In the modern world, the word person means an individual being.  But in ancient Greek, a persona was the mask worn by an actor.  In other words, the doctrine is saying God wears three masks, Father, Son and Holy Ghost, but he is just one being.

As it stands now the Trinity is a being who exists, simultaneously and eternally, as a mutual indwelling of three personalities the Father, the Son (incarnated as Jesus)  and the Holy Spirit.  Since the 4th century, in both Eastern and Western Christianity, this doctrine has been stated as "three persons in one God," all three of whom, as distinct and co-eternal beings, are of one indivisible Divine essence.  The doctrine also teaches that the Son himself has two distinct natures, one fully divine and the other fully human, united in a  hypostatic union.  Support of the doctrine of the Trinity is known as Trinitarianism. Most denominations within Christianity are Trinitarian, and regard belief in the Trinity as a mark of Christian orthodoxy.
  

It is no secret that the Christian doctrine of the Trinity as such is not found in the Bible. It is systematized from various Biblical texts by later Christians to present one coherent and accurate teaching that attempts to unify all true believers. Traditional Christianity holds that:

  • The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are One God (not three Gods)

  • The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are equal in power and glory (same in essence).

  • The Father functionally is superior to the Son and the Holy Spirit (both Son and the Spirit are obedient to the Father).

As we think through this important topic, here are few things to keep in mind:

First, the original Christ-following movement was still very Jewish and as such was not very interested in doctrines per se. What really concerned first-century Jews was not so much the details of correct beliefs, but rather the details of holy living.

Second, some Jews even prior to Jesus thought of the relation between God and his Word in nearly identical terms as does John’s Gospel (John 1:1). Other pre-Jesus Jews, among many intriguing things, believed in the notion of “the Son of Man” as eternal heavenly being whom God will one day seat on the throne of His glory.

Third, while the Apostles did not think of the Holy Spirit as simply God’s power void of any kind of personality (as in Jehovah Witnesses’ theology) there is embarrassingly little about the divinity of the Holy Spirit in New Testament.

I therefore conclude that if the Apostles were presented with the Christian doctrine of Trinity in its traditional form they would be deeply puzzled as to why such a systematization was necessary or considered essential. But then after being pressed for an answer they would have with some hesitation agreed that the basic ideas presented to them were correct.

Sites to check out for further information about this belief:

Believers in Christ who do not believe in the Trinity  

Associated Bible Students refute the Trinity

 

The Lost Doctrines of Christianity

Understanding the Scriptures as Taught by the Apostles

The Truth about the Trinity

                                                          
Facts on the World's Religions