The Full Wiki

Holy Trinity: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


(Redirected to Trinity article)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Part of a series on

Jesus Christ is the central figure of Christianity.

Jesus Christ
Virgin birth · Crucifixion · Resurrection · Easter · Christian views of Jesus
Church · New Covenant · Apostles · Kingdom · Gospel · Timeline · Paul · Peter
Old Testament · New Testament ·
Books · Canon · Apocrypha
Salvation · Baptism · Trinity · Father · Son · Holy Spirit · History of theology · Christology · Mariology · Apologetics · Eschatology
History and traditions
Early · Constantine · Councils · Creeds · Missions · Chrysostom · East-West Schism · Crusades · Reformation · Counter-Reformation
General topics
Preaching · Prayer · Ecumenism · Relation to other religions · Christian movements · Music · Liturgy · Calendar · Symbols · Art · Criticism
P christianity.svg Christianity Portal

Conceptions of God

The Christian doctrine of the Trinity teaches the unity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as three persons in one Godhead.[1] Personhood in the Trinity does not match the common Western understanding of "person" as used in the English language—it does not imply an "individual, self-actualized center of free will and conscious activity."[2]:pp. 185-6. To the ancients, personhood "was in some sense individual, but always in community as well."[2]:p.186 The doctrine states that God is the Triune God, existing as three persons, or in the Greek hypostases,[3] but one being.[4] Each person is understood as having the one identical essence or nature, not merely similar natures. Since the beginning of the third century[5] the doctrine of the Trinity has been stated as "the one God exists in three Persons and one substance, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit."[6] Trinitarianism, belief in the Trinity, is a mark of Oriental and Eastern Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism and all the mainstream traditions arising from the Protestant Reformation, such as Anglicanism, Methodism, Lutheranism and Presbyterianism. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church describes the Trinity as "the central dogma of Christian theology".[6]

This doctrine contrasts with Nontrinitarian positions which include Binitarianism (one deity/two persons), Unitarianism (one deity/one person), the Oneness belief held by certain Pentecostal groups, Modalism, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' view of the Godhead as three separate beings who are one in purpose rather than essence.

The New Testament does not have a formal doctrine of the Trinity and nowhere discusses the Trinity as such. However, Southern Baptist theologian Frank Stagg emphasizes that the New Testament does repeatedly speak of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit to "compel a trinitarian understanding of God."[7] The doctrine developed from the biblical language used in New Testament passages such as the baptismal formula in Matthew 28:19 and took substantially its present form by the end of the 4th century as a result of controversies in which some theologians, when speaking of God, used terms such as "person", "nature", "essence", "substance", terms that had never been used by the Apostolic Fathers, in a way that the Church authorities considered to be erroneous.[6][8][9][10]

Some deny that the doctrine that developed in the fourth century was based on Christian ideas, and hold instead that it was a deviation from Early Christian teaching on the nature of God[11] or even that it was borrowed from a pre-Christian conception of a divine trinity held by Plato.[12]



The "Shield of the Trinity" or "Scutum Fidei" diagram of traditional Western Christian symbolism.

The English word Trinity is derived from Latin Trinitas, meaning "the number three, a triad".[13] This abstract noun is formed from the adjective trinus (three each, threefold, triple),[14] as the word unitas is the abstract noun formed from unus (one).

The corresponding word in Greek is Τριάς, meaning "a set of three" or "the number three".[15]

The first recorded use of this Greek word in Christian theology (though not about the Divine Trinity) was by Theophilus of Antioch in about 170. He wrote:[16][17]

"In like manner also the three days which were before the luminaries, are types of the Trinity [Τριάδος], of God, and His Word, and His wisdom. And the fourth is the type of man, who needs light, that so there may be God, the Word, wisdom, man."[18]

Tertullian, a Latin theologian who wrote in the early third century, is credited with using the words "Trinity",[19] "person" and "substance"[20] to explain that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are "one in essence—not one in Person".[21]

About a century later, in 325, the First Council of Nicaea established the doctrine of the Trinity as orthodoxy and adopted the Nicene Creed, which described Christ as "God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance (homoousios) with the Father".

References used from Scripture

The Holy Trinity, c. 1300 - 1350. English or Spanish. Alabaster. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

The New Testament does not use the word "Τριάς" (Trinity) nor explicitly teach it, but provides the material upon which the doctrine of the Trinity is based.[22] It required reflection by the earliest Christians on the coming of Jesus and of what they believed to be the presence and power of God among them, which they called the Holy Spirit; and it associated the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in such passages as the Great Commission: "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"[Matt. 28:19] and Paul the Apostle's blessing: "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all,"[2 Cor. 13:14] while at the same time not contradicting the Jewish Shema Yisrael: "Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one."[Deuteronomy 6:4][1] Apart from the passages that speak of Father Son and Holy Spirit, there are many passages that refer to God and Jesus without also referring to the Spirit.[23]

According to Christian tradition the Trinity was introduced by the Gospels and Jesus Christ[24] "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you."[Matt. 28:19-20] Jesus thus mentions the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit in a phrase that may suggest that there is one name that encompasses all three.

The Old Testament refers to God's word,[25] his spirit,[26] and Wisdom.[27] These have been interpreted as foreshadowings of the doctrine of the Trinity,[28] as have been also narratives such as the appearance of the three men to Abraham.[Gen. 18][6] Some Church Fathers believed that a knowledge of the mystery was granted to the prophets and saints of the Old Dispensation, and that they identified the divine messenger of Genesis 16:7, 21:17, 31:11, Exodus 3:2 and Wisdom of the sapiential books with the Son, and "the spirit of the Lord" with the Holy Spirit.[29]

However, it is generally agreed that it would go beyond the intention and spirit of the Old Testament to correlate these notions directly with later Trinitarian doctrine.[29][30]

The Gospel of John opens by declaring, as usually translated: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made." The rest of John 1 makes it clear that "the Word" refers to Jesus Christ. Thus John introduces a seemingly impossible contradiction, that Jesus both "was with God" and "was God" at the same time, and that was true from the beginning of creation. John also portrays Jesus Christ as the creator of the Universe, such that "without him nothing was made that has been made."[John 1:3]

The Apostle John is identified as the "one whom Jesus loved" thus perhaps being the closest Apostle to Jesus. Jesus also instructed John to adopt Jesus' mother Mary as John's own in Mary's old age[Jn 19:26] such that John would have had the entire knowledge of Jesus' family when writing his Gospel. Some scholars question this, however, as the gospel of John is believed to have been written no earlier than the last decade of the first century (ca. 96 CE, according to Catholic tradition).[31]

Jesus frequently referred to the "Father" as God as distinct from himself, but also discussed "The Holy Spirit" as a being distinct from either God the Father or Jesus himself.

These things I have spoken to you while abiding with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.

John 14:25-26

In this passage, Jesus portrays the Father sending the Holy Spirit—that is the Father and the Holy Spirit are two distinctly different persons, and portrays both the Father and the Holy Spirit as distinct from Jesus himself. Thus even apart from whether Jesus was God, Jesus declares that the Father and the Holy Spirit are two different persons, both of them divine. In the same way, the Old Testament frequently refers to "the Spirit of God" as something slightly different from God himself.

The fourth Gospel also elaborates on the role of Holy Spirit, sent as an advocate for believers.[32] The immediate context of these verses was providing "assurance of the presence and power of God both in the ministry of Jesus and the ongoing life of the community"; but, beyond this immediate context, these verses raised questions of relationship between Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, especially as concerns their distinction and their unity. These questions were hotly debated over the ensuing centuries, and mainstream Christianity resolved the issues by drawing up creeds.[32]

However, some scholars dispute the authenticity of the Trinity and argue that the doctrine is the result of "later theological interpretations of Christ's nature and function."[33][34] The concept was expressed in early writings from the beginning of the second century forward. Some believe the concept was introduced in the Old Testament book of Isaiah written around 700 years before Jesus, copies of which were preserved from 300 years before Jesus in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Isaiah 9:6 prophesies "For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon his shoulder. And his name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Thus a son who will be born at a particular point in history (to a virgin or young woman[Isa. 7:14] is also "Mighty God, Everlasting Father". This is the Christian teaching that God exists simultaneously as the Eternal God and also as a Son (Jesus) born to a virgin. Isaiah refers to the Son as "Mighty God, Everlasting Father".

Various passages from the Christian and Hebrew scriptures have been cited as supporting this doctrine, while other passages are cited as opposing it.


Scriptural texts cited as implying support

"Dogmatic Sarcophagus", 350 A.D., Earliest known depiction of the Trinity[35] Vatican Museum, Rome, Italy.

The diverse references to God, Jesus, and the Spirit found in the New Testament were later systematized into a Trinity—one God subsisting in three persons and one substance—to combat heretical tendencies of how the three are related and to defend the church against charges of worshiping two or three gods.[32] The doctrine was not explicitly stated in the New Testament and no New Testament writer expounds on the relationship among the three in the detail that later writers do. Thus, while Matthew records a special connection between God the Father and Jesus the Son,[Matt. 11:27] he falls short of claiming that Jesus is equal with God[Matt. 24:36][32] although John is more explicit and writes that Jesus Christ told the Jews: "I and the Father are one".[John 10:30]

The most influential New Testament text was the reference to the three Persons in the baptismal formula in Matthew 28:19. Other passages also were seen as having Trinitarian overtones, such as the Pauline benediction of 2 Cor. 13:14.[6]

The Gospel of John starts, as generally understood and translated,[36] with the affirmation that in the beginning Jesus as Word "was with God and ...was God",[John 1:1] and ends with Thomas's confession of faith to Jesus, "My Lord and my God!"[John 20:28][32] There is no significant tendency among modern scholars to deny that these two verses identify Jesus with God.[37] The same Gospel also suggests that Jesus' use of the term "Son of God" inferred essential equality and unity of Father and Son—"…making himself equal to the Father"[John 5:18] [19:7] and saying "I and the Father are one."[10:30] John also suggests a hierarchy when Jesus is quoted as saying, "The Father is greater than I,"[14:28] a statement appealed to by Marcionism, Valentinianism, Arianism who held non-trinitarian views.[citation needed]

Summarizing the role of scripture in the formation of Trinitarian belief, Gregory Nazianzen argues in his Orations that the revelation was intentionally gradual:

The Old Testament proclaimed the Father openly, and the Son more obscurely. The New manifested the Son, and suggested the deity of the Spirit. Now the Spirit himself dwells among us, and supplies us with a clearer demonstration of himself. For it was not safe, when the Godhead of the Father was not yet acknowledged, plainly to proclaim the Son; nor when that of the Son was not yet received to burden us further.[38]

References to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

A few verses directly reference the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit at the same time:

  • "As soon as Jesus Christ was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and landing on him. And a voice from heaven said, 'This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.'"[Matt. 3:16–17] [Mark 1:10–11] [Luke 3:22] [John 1:32]
  • "The angel answered and said to her, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.'"[Luke 1:35]
  • "How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!"[Heb. 9:14]
  • "But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God." [Acts 7:55]
  • This passage contains many complex formulations of the relationship between God, Christ, and Spirit, including "the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead,"[Rom. 8:11] "all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God,"[8:14-17] and "the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God."[8:26-27]

Some even reference these as part of a single formula:

  • "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit"[Matt. 28:19] (see Trinitarian formula). It has been claimed that writings of Eusebius show the mention of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to have displaced a request by Jesus that his disciples baptize people in his name,[39] but all manuscripts of the Gospel of Matthew contain, without any variation, the mention of the Trinity.[40]
  • "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you."[2 Cor. 13:14]

Comma Johanneum

In addition to these, 1 John 5:7, which is found in the King James Version but not in modern English translations nor in the official Latin text (a revision of the Vulgate) of the Roman Catholic Church,[41] states: "For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one." However, this Comma Johanneum is not considered to be part of the genuine text.[42] It is commonly found in Latin manuscripts, but is absent from the Greek manuscripts, except for a few late examples, where the passage appears to have been back-translated from the Latin. Erasmus, the compiler of the Textus Receptus, on which the King James Version was based, noticed that the passage was not found in any of the Greek manuscripts at his disposal and refused to include it until presented with a manuscript containing it, while still suspecting, as is now agreed, that the phrase was a gloss.[43] Although the Latin Church Father, Saint Cyprian, alone among early writers, is thought to have referred to the passage,[44] it is now considered not to be part of the original text.

Jesus as God

In the New Testament, the Gospel of John has been seen as aimed at emphasizing Jesus' divinity, presenting Jesus as the Logos, pre-existent and divine, from its first words, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God";[John 1:1] and "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth."[1:14][45] Other passages of John's Gospel interpreted in this sense include "before Abraham was born, I am!",[8:58] "I and the Father are one",[10:30] "The Father is in me, and I in the Father",[10:38] and "Thomas said to him, 'My Lord and my God!'"[20:28] [46] John is also seen to identify Jesus as the Lord whom Isaiah saw,[Jn. 12:34-45] [Isa. 6:1-10] while other texts[Heb. 1:1-12] are also understood as referring to Jesus as God.[47][48][49]

Expressions also in the Pauline epistles have been interpreted as attributing divinity to Jesus. They include Colossians 1:16 ("For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him") and 2:9 ("For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form"), and in Paul the Apostle's claim in Galatians 1:1 to have been "sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father".[50]

Another biblical demonstration of Jesus as God comes from English abolitionist and philanthropist Granville Sharp who noticed the following Greek idiom, which is now called Granville Sharp's rule:[51] when two nouns that are personal, singular, and not proper names are connected in a TSKS pattern (The—Substantive—Kai—Substantive, where 'kai' is Greek for 'and') then the two nouns refer to the same person. Obviously this idiom does not apply to proper names—the phrase "The Pope and Mr. Gorbachev" refers to two separate people.[52] Passages like Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1 fit this pattern. Therefore, when Paul says:[Titus 2:13] "The great God and savior, Jesus Christ" he is grammatically identifying Jesus Christ as the great God. Proper nouns are not used in this phrase. Capitalized in English, the word God in Greek grammar is not a proper noun. While 'Jesus Christ' here is a proper noun it is the word 'savior' that is in the TSKS construction.[53] In his review of over 1,000 years of Greek literature, Christopher Wordsworth confirmed that early church Fathers had this same understanding of the text. He writes, "I have observed…some hundreds of instances of the 'The great God and savior';[Titus 2:13] and no fewer than several thousand of the form 'The God and savior'"[2 Pet. 1:1] and in every case (when it could be determined) they spoke "only of one person."[54] This Greek idiom shows that both the New Testament authors and the early church Fathers considered Jesus to be God.

It is agreed that the Bible also refers to Jesus as a man, which is in line with the Trinitarian theological concept of kenosis.

Claims of Old Testament prefigurations

Genesis 18–19 have been interpreted by Christians as a Trinitarian text.[55] The narrative has the LORD appearing to Abraham, who was visited by three men.[Gen. 18:1-2] Then in Genesis 19, "the two angels" visited Lot at Sodom. The interplay between Abraham on the one hand, and the LORD/three men/the two angels on the other was an intriguing text for those who believed in a single God in three persons. Justin Martyr, and John Calvin similarly, interpreted it such that Abraham was visited by God, who was accompanied by two angels.[56] Justin supposed that the god who visited Abraham was distinguishable from the god who remains in the heavens, but was nevertheless identified as the (monotheistic) god. Justin appropriated the god who visited Abraham to Jesus, the second person of the Trinity.

Augustine, in contrast, held that the three visitors to Abraham were the three persons of the Trinity.[56] He saw no indication that the visitors were unequal, as would be the case in Justin's reading. Then in Genesis 19, two of the visitors were addressed by Lot in the singular: "Lot said to them, 'Not so, my lord.'"[56] Augustine saw that Lot could address them as one because they had a single substance, despite the plurality of persons.Some Christians see indications in the Old Testament of a plurality and unity in God, an idea that is rejected by Judaism, which interprets the New Testament also as not including the doctrine.[57][58]

Some Christians interpret the theophanies or appearances of the Angel of the Lord as revelations of a person distinct from God, who is nonetheless called God.[59] This interpretation is found in Christianity as early as Justin Martyr and Melito of Sardis, and reflects ideas that were already present in Philo.[60] The Old Testament theophanies were thus seen as Christophanies, each a "preincarnate appearance of the Messiah".[61]


Genesis 12:7 and Genesis 18:1—God appeared to Abraham
Genesis 26:2 and Genesis 26:24—God appeared to Isaac
Genesis 35:1, Genesis 35:9 and Genesis 48:3—God appeared to Jacob
Exodus 3:16 and Exodus 4:5—God appeared to Moses
Exodus 6:3—God appeared to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob
Leviticus 9:4 and Leviticus 6:2—God appeared to Aaron
Deuteronomy 31:15—God appeared to Moses and Joshua
1 Samuel 3:21—God appeared to Samuel
1 Kings 3:5, 1 Kings 9:2 and 1 Kings 11:9—God appeared to Solomon
2 Chronicles 1—God appeared to David
2 Chronicles 7:12—God appeared to Solomon

The angel (messenger) of the Lord:

Genesis 16:7–14
Genesis 22:9–14
Exodus 3:2
Exodus 23:20,21
Numbers 22:21–35
Judges 2:1–5
Judges 6:11–22
Judges 13:3

God called "Father" in the Old Testament

Deuteronomy 32:6 (Moses' time)
Isaiah 63:16,64:8 (pre-exile)
Malachi 2:10 (post-exile)

Old Testament passages claimed to refer to the Son

God in the person of the Son confronts Adam and Eve

God is not directly identified as "the Son" in the Old Testament. Israel (and, poetically Ephraim) are called God's first born son, representing an aspect of the Jewish nation's relationship with God. There are, however, what many Christians believe are foreshadowings of Jesus as God the Son.

Psalm 2 is widely considered a Messianic psalm prophetically describing the Lord's "Anointed One" (verse 2). It contains in verse 7 the divine decree: "You are my son, today I have become your Father." Verse 12 contains the words "Kiss the son". While in verse 7 the Hebrew word for son is used, in verse 12 a Chaldean word is used. Support for the translation of the Chaldean word as "son" is found in its other[Ezra 5:2] This psalm denotes a Father—Son relationship between God and "the Anointed One", one who would receive the nations as his heritage (verse 8). Isaiah 9, also considered a Messianic prophecy, describes the coming Messiah as "Mighty God" (verse 6). Psalm 110 describes the LORD (understood as God the Father) sharing his eternal glory with the psalmist's Lord (understood to be the Son, the Messiah).

In Daniel 7 the prophet records his vision of "one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven", who "was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him" (v. 14). Christians believe that worship is only properly given to God, and that considering other Bible passages this "son of man" can be identified as the second person of the Trinity. Parallels may be drawn between Daniel's vision and Jesus' words to the Jewish high priest that in the future those assembled would see "the son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven."[Matt. 26:64-65] Jesus was immediately accused of blasphemy, as at other times when he had identified his oneness with God.[John 10:33] Christians also believe that John saw the resurrected, gloried Jesus and described him as "One like the Son of Man."[Rev. 1:13]

The Spirit of the Lord in the Old Testament

1 Samuel 10:10
1 Samuel 19:20
1 Samuel 19:23
2 Samuel 23:2
1 Kings 22:24
Nehemiah 9:30
Psalms 51:11
Isaiah 63:10-11
Micah 2:7

Deity of the Spirit in the Old Testament:

Job 33:4
Psalms 104:30
Psalms 139:7

Words of the Holy Spirit called the words of God:

1 Samuel 10:10
2 Samuel 23:2
Zechariah 2:10
Zechariah 7:12

Possible pre-Christian trinitarian references in the apocryphal/deuterocanonical books

In the Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus, and Baruch, the personifications of wisdom have been seen in the Christian traditions as prefigures for Christ. The most explicit reference to the Trinity is in Wisdom of Solomon:

Who has learned your counsel, unless you have given wisdom and sent your holy spirit from on high? And thus the paths of those on earth were set right, and people were taught what pleases you, and were saved by wisdom.


Pope Clement I prays to the Trinity, in a typical post-Renaissance depiction by Gianbattista Tiepolo.

Origin of the formula

The basis for the doctrine of the Trinity is found in New Testament passages that associate the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.[62] Two such passages[62] are Matthew's Great Commission: "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"[Matt 28:19] and St Paul's: "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all."[2 Cor. 13:14]

In 325, the Council of Nicaea adopted a term for the relationship between the Son and the Father that from then on was seen as the hallmark of orthodoxy; it declared that the Son is "of the same substance" (ὁμοούσιος) as the Father. This was further developed into the formula "three persons, one substance". The answer to the question "What is God?" indicates the one-ness of the divine nature, while the answer to the question "Who is God?" indicates the three-ness of "Father, Son and Holy Spirit".[63]

Saint Athanasius, who was a participant in the Council, stated that the bishops were forced to use this terminology, which is not found in Scripture, because the Biblical phrases that they would have preferred to use were claimed by the Arians to be capable of being interpreted in what the bishops considered to be a heretical sense.[64] They therefore "commandeered the non-scriptural[65] term homoousios ('of one substance') to safeguard the essential relation of the Son to the Father that had been denied by Arius."[66]

The Confession of the Council of Nicaea said little about the Holy Spirit.[62] The doctrine of the divinity and personality of the Holy Spirit was developed by Athanasius (c 293–373) in the last decades of his life.[67] He defended and refined the Nicene formula.[62] By the end of the 4th century, under the leadership of Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nyssa, and Gregory of Nazianzus (the Cappadocian Fathers), the doctrine had reached substantially its current form.[62]

Formulation of the doctrine

The most significant developments in articulating the doctrine of the Trinity took place in the 4th century, with a group of men known as the Church Fathers.[68] Although the earliest Church Fathers had affirmed the teachings of the Apostles, their focus was on their pastoral duties to the Church under the persecution of the Roman Empire.[68] Thus the early Fathers were largely unable to compose doctrinal treatises and theological expositions. With the relaxing of the persecution of the church during the rise of Constantine, the stage was set for ecumenical dialogue.[68]

Trinitarians believe that the resultant councils and creeds did not discover or create doctrine, but rather, responding to serious heresies such as Arianism, articulated in the creeds the truths that the orthodox church had believed since the time of the apostles.[68]

The Ante-Nicene Fathers, although likely foreign to the specifics of Trinitarian theology because they were not defined until the 4th century, nevertheless affirmed Christ's deity and referenced "Father, Son and Holy Spirit". Trinitarians view these as elements of the codified doctrine.[69]

Depiction of Trinity from Saint Denis Basilica in Paris.

The Trinitarian view has been affirmed as an article of faith by the Nicene (325/381) and Athanasian creeds (circa 500), which attempted to standardize belief in the face of disagreements on the subject. These creeds were formulated and ratified by the Church of the third and fourth centuries in reaction to heterodox theologies concerning the Trinity and/or Christ. The Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, revised in 381 by the second of these councils, is professed by the Eastern Orthodox Church and, with one addition (Filioque clause), the Roman Catholic Church, and has been retained in some form in the Anglican Communion and most Protestant denominations.

The Nicene Creed, which is a classic formulation of the doctrine of the Trinity, uses "homoousios" (Greek for "of the same essence") of the relation of the Son's relationship with the Father. This word differs from that used by non-Trinitarians of the time, "homoiousios" (Greek for "of similar essence"), by a single Greek letter, "one iota", a fact proverbially used to speak of deep divisions, especially in theology, expressed by seemingly small verbal differences.

One of the (probably three) Church councils that in 264–266 condemned Paul of Samosata for his Adoptionist theology also condemned the term "homoousios" in the sense he used it. Fourth-century Christians who objected to the Nicene trinity made copious use of this condemnation by a reputable council.[70]

Moreover, the meanings of "ousia" and "hypostasis" overlapped then, so that the latter term for some meant essence and for others person. Athanasius of Alexandria (293–373) helped to clarify the terms.[71]

Because Christianity converts cultures from within, the doctrinal formulas as they have developed bear the marks of the ages through which the church has passed. The rhetorical tools of Greek philosophy, especially of Neoplatonism, are evident in the language adopted to explain the church's rejection of Arianism and Adoptionism on one hand (teaching that Christ is inferior to the Father, or even that he was merely human), and Docetism and Sabellianism on the other hand (teaching that Christ was an illusion, or that he was identical to God the Father). Augustine of Hippo has been noted at the forefront of these formulations; and he contributed much to the speculative development of the doctrine of the Trinity as it is known today, in the West; the Cappadocian Fathers (Basil the Great, Gregory of Nyssa, and Gregory Nazianzus) are more prominent in the East. The imprint of Augustinianism is found, for example, in the western Athanasian Creed, which, although it bears the name and reproduces the views of the fourth century opponent of Arianism, was probably written much later.

These controversies were for most purposes settled at the Ecumenical councils, whose creeds affirm the doctrine of the Trinity.

According to the Athanasian Creed, each of these three divine persons is said to be eternal, each almighty, none greater or less than another, each God, and yet together being but one God, "So are we forbidden by the Catholic religion to say: 'There are three Gods or three Lords.'"—Athanasian Creed, line 20.

Modalists attempted to resolve the mystery of the Trinity by holding that the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost are modes, aspects or roles, of God. This anti-Trinitarian view contends that the three "persons" are not distinct persons, but titles which describe how humanity has interacted with or experienced God. In the role of the Father, God is the provider and creator of all. In the mode of the Son, man experiences God in the flesh, as a human, fully man and fully God. God manifests as the Holy Spirit by his actions on Earth and within the lives of Christians. This view is known as Sabellianism, and was rejected as heresy by the Ecumenical Councils although it is still prevalent today among those denominations known as "Oneness" and "Apostolic" Pentecostal Christians, the largest of which is the United Pentecostal Church International (see below, under "Nontrinitarianism"). Trinitarianism, on the other hand, insists that the Father, Son and Spirit simultaneously exist as three persons in one essence, each fully the same God.

The doctrine developed into its present form precisely through this confrontation with alternatives; and refinement continues in the same way. Even now, ecumenical dialogue between Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Roman Catholic, the Assyrian Church of the East, Anglican and Trinitarian Protestants, seeks an expression of Trinitarian and Christological doctrine which will overcome the extremely subtle differences that have largely contributed to dividing them into separate communities. The doctrine of the Trinity is therefore symbolic, paradoxically, of division and unity.

Trinitarian theology

Baptism as the beginning lesson

Baptism of Christ, by Piero della Francesca, 15th century

Baptism is generally conferred with the Trinitarian formula, "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."[Matt. 28:19] Trinitarians identify this name with the Christian faith into which baptism is an initiation, as seen for example in the statement of Basil the Great (330–379): "We are bound to be baptized in the terms we have received, and to profess faith in the terms in which we have been baptized." "This is the Faith of our baptism", the First Council of Constantinople also says (382), "that teaches us to believe in the Name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. According to this Faith there is one Godhead, Power, and Being of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."

Matthew 28:19 may be taken to indicate that baptism was associated with this Trinitarian formula from the earliest decades of the Church's existence.

Some groups, such as Oneness Pentecostals, demur from the Trinitarian view on baptism. For them, the omission of the formula in Acts outweighs all other considerations, and is a liturgical guide for their own practice. For this reason, they often focus on the baptisms in Acts, citing many authoritative theological works. For example, Kittel is cited where he is speaking of the phrase "in the name" (Greek: εἰς τὸ ὄνομα) as used in the baptisms recorded in Acts:

The distinctive feature of Christian baptism is that it is administered in Christ (εἰς Χριστόν), or in the name of Christ (εἰς τὸ ὄνομα Χριστοῦ). (Gerhard Kittel, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1977), 1:539.)
The formula (εἰς τὸ ὄνομα) seems to have been a tech. term in Hellenistic commerce ("to the account"). In both cases the use of the phrase is understandable, since the account bears the name of the one who owns it, and in baptism the name of Christ is pronounced, invoked and confessed by the one who baptises or the one baptised[Acts 22:16] or both. (Kittel, 1:540.)

Those who place great emphasis on the baptisms in Acts often likewise question the authenticity of Matthew 28:19 in its present form. A. Ploughman, apparently following F. C. Conybeare, has questioned the authenticity of Matthew 28:19, but most scholars of New Testament textual criticism accept the authenticity of the passage, since there are no variant manuscripts regarding the formula, and the extant form of the passage is attested in the Didache[72] and other patristic works of the first and second centuries: Ignatius,[73] Tertullian,[74] Hippolytus,[75] Cyprian,[76] and Gregory Thaumaturgus.[77] The Acts of the Apostles only mentions believers being baptized "in the name of Jesus Christ"[Acts 2:38] [10:48] and "in the name of the Lord Jesus."[8:16] [19:5] There are no biblical references to baptism in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit outside of Matthew 28:19, nor references, biblical or patristic, to baptism in the name of (the Lord) Jesus (Christ) outside the Acts of the Apostles.[78]

Commenting on Matthew 28:19, Gerhard Kittel states:

This threefold relation [of Father, Son and Spirit] soon found fixed expression in the triadic formulae in 2 Cor. 13:14 and in 1 Cor. 12:4-6. The form is first found in the baptismal formula in Matthew 28:19; Did., 7. 1 and 3....[I]t is self-evident that Father, Son and Spirit are here linked in an indissoluble threefold relationship.[79]

In the synoptic Gospels the baptism of Jesus is often interpreted as a manifestation of all three persons of the Trinity: "And when Jesus was baptized, he went up immediately from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened and he saw the spirit of God descending like a dove, and alighting on him; and lo, a voice from heaven, saying, 'This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.'"[Matt. 3:16–17]

One God

Christianity is a monotheistic religion. Never in the New Testament does the trinitarian concept become a "tritheism" (three Gods) nor even two.[7] God is one, and that the Godhead is a single being is strongly declared in the Bible:

  • The Shema of the Hebrew Scriptures: "Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God, the LORD is one."[Deut. 6:4]
  • The first of the Ten Commandments—"Thou shalt have no other gods before me"[5:7]. (A statement of Monolatrism, it is frequently cited as if it promotes Monotheism)
  • and "Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel and his redeemer the LORD of hosts: I am the first and I am the last; and beside me there is no God."[Isa. 44:6]
  • In the New Testament: "The Lord our God is one."[Mk. 12:29]

In the Trinitarian view, the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost share the one essence, substance or being. The central and crucial affirmation of Christian faith is that there is one savior, God, and one salvation, manifest in Jesus Christ, to which there is access only because of the Holy Spirit. The God of the Old Testament is still the same as the God of the New. In Christianity, statements about a solitary God are intended to distinguish the Hebraic understanding from the polytheistic view, which see divine power as shared by several beings, beings which can and do disagree and have conflicts with each other.

God in three persons

According to the Trinity doctrine, God exists as three persons, or hypostases, but is one being, that is, has but a single divine nature.[80] ChalcedoniansRoman Catholics, Orthodox Christians, Anglicans and Protestants—hold that, in addition, the second person of the Trinity—God the Son, Jesus—assumed human nature, so that he has two natures (and hence two wills), and is really and fully both true God and true human. In the Oriental Orthodox theology, the Chalcedonian formulation is rejected in favor of the position that the union of the two natures, though unconfused, births a third nature: redeemed humanity, the new creation.

The members of the Trinity are said to be co-equal and co-eternal, one in essence, nature, power, action, and will. As stated in the Athanasian Creed, the Father is uncreated, the Son is uncreated, and the Holy Spirit is uncreated, and all three are eternal with no beginning.[81] The Roman Catholic Church teaches that, in the sense of the Latin verb procedere, but not in that of the Greek verb ἐκπορεύεσθαι, the Spirit "proceeds" from the Father and the Son (see Filioque).

It has been stated that because three persons exist in God as one unity,[82] "The Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit" are not three different names for different parts of God but one name for God,[83] because the Father can not be divided from the Son or the Holy Spirit from the Son. God has always loved, and there has always existed perfectly harmonious communion between the three persons of the Trinity. One consequence of this teaching is that God could not have created man to have someone to talk to or to love: God "already" enjoyed personal communion; being perfect, he did not create man because of a lack or inadequacy he had. Another consequence, according to Rev. Fr. Thomas Hopko, an Eastern Orthodox theologian, is that if God were not a Trinity, he could not have loved prior to creating other beings on whom to bestow his love. Thus God says, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them."[Gen. 1:26-27] For Trinitarians, emphasis in Genesis 1:26 is on the plurality in the Deity, and in 1:27 on the unity of the divine Essence. A possible interpretation of Genesis 1:26 is that God's relationships in the Trinity are mirrored in man by the ideal relationship between husband and wife, two persons becoming one flesh, as described in Eve's creation later in the next chapter.[2:22]

Mutually indwelling

A useful explanation of the relationship of the distinct divine persons is called "perichoresis", from Greek going around, envelopment (written with a long O, omega—some mistakenly associate it with the Greek word for dance, which however is spelled with a short O, omicron). This concept refers for its basis to John 14–17, where Jesus is instructing the disciples concerning the meaning of his departure. His going to the Father, he says, is for their sake; so that he might come to them when the "other comforter" is given to them. Then, he says, his disciples will dwell in him, as he dwells in the Father, and the Father dwells in him, and the Father will dwell in them. This is so, according to the theory of perichoresis, because the persons of the Trinity "reciprocally contain one another, so that one permanently envelopes and is permanently enveloped by, the other whom he yet envelopes". (Hilary of Poitiers, Concerning the Trinity 3:1). [3]

This co-indwelling may also be helpful in illustrating the Trinitarian conception of salvation. The first doctrinal benefit is that it effectively excludes the idea that God has parts. Trinitarians affirm that God is a simple, not an aggregate, being. The second doctrinal benefit is that it harmonizes well with the doctrine that the Christian's union with the Son in his humanity brings him into union with one who contains in himself, in St. Paul's words, "all the fullness of deity" and not a part. (See also: Theosis). Perichoresis provides an intuitive figure of what this might mean. The Son, the eternal Word, is from all eternity the dwelling place of God; he is the "Father's house", just as the Son dwells in the Father and the Spirit; so that, when the Spirit is "given", then it happens as Jesus said, "I will not leave you as orphans; for I will come to you."[John 14:18]

Some forms of human union are considered to be not identical but analogous to the Trinitarian concept, as found for example in Jesus' words about marriage: "For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh."[Mark 10:7–8] According to the words of Jesus, married persons are in some sense no longer two, but joined into one. Therefore, Orthodox theologians also see the marriage relationship as an image, or "icon" of the Trinity, relationships of communion in which, in the words of St. Paul, participants are "members one of another". As with marriage, the unity of the church with Christ is similarly considered in some sense analogous to the unity of the Trinity, following the prayer of Jesus to the Father, for the church, that "they may be one, even as we are one".[John 17:22]

Eternal generation and procession

Trinitarianism affirms that the Son is "begotten" (or "generated") of the Father and that the Spirit "proceeds" from the Father, but the Father is "neither begotten nor proceeds". The argument over whether the Spirit proceeds from the Father alone, or from the Father and the Son, was one of the catalysts of the Great Schism, in this case concerning the Western addition of the Filioque clause to the Nicene Creed.

This language is often considered difficult because, if used regarding humans or other created things, it would imply time and change; when used here, no beginning, change in being, or process within time is intended and is excluded. The Son is generated ("born" or "begotten"), and the Spirit proceeds, eternally. Augustine of Hippo explains, "Thy years are one day, and Thy day is not daily, but today; because Thy today yields not to tomorrow, for neither does it follow yesterday. Thy today is eternity; therefore Thou begat the Co-eternal, to whom Thou saidst, 'This day have I begotten Thee."[Ps. 2:7]

Son begotten, not created

Because the Son is begotten, not made, the substance of his person is that of the deity. The creation is brought into being through the Son, but the Son himself is not part of it except through his incarnation.

The church fathers used several analogies to express this thought. St. Irenaeus of Lyons was the final major theologian of the second century. He writes "the Father is God, and the Son is God, for whatever is begotten of God is God." (Compare Spinoza's philosophy of God)

Extending the analogy, it might be said, similarly, that whatever is generated (procreated) of humans is human. Thus, given that humanity is, in the words of the Bible, "created in the image and likeness of God", an analogy can be drawn between the Divine Essence and human nature, between the Divine Persons and human persons. However, given the fall, this analogy is far from perfect, even though, like the Divine Persons, human persons are characterized by being "loci of relationship". For Trinitarian Christians, this analogy is important with regard to the Church, which St. Paul calls "the body of Christ" and whose members are, because they are "members of Christ", also "members one of another".

However, an attempt to explain the mystery to some extent must break down, and has limited usefulness, being designed, not so much to fully explain the Trinity, but to point to the experience of communion with the Triune God within the Church as the Body of Christ. The difference between those who believe in the Trinity and those who do not, is not an issue of understanding the mystery. The difference is primarily one of belief concerning the personal identity of Christ. It is a difference in conception of the salvation connected with Christ that drives all reactions, either favorable or unfavorable, to the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. As it is, the doctrine of the Trinity is directly tied up with Christology.

Economic and ontological Trinity

  • Economic Trinity: This refers to the acts of the triune God with respect to the creation, history, salvation, the formation of the Church, the daily lives of believers, etc. and describes how the Trinity operates within history in terms of the roles or functions performed by each Person of the Trinity—God's relationship with creation.
  • Ontological (or essential or immanent) Trinity: This speaks of the interior life of the Trinity[John 1:1–2]—the reciprocal relationships of Father, Son and Spirit to each other without reference to God's relationship with creation.

Or more simply—the ontological Trinity (who God is) and the economic Trinity (what God does). Most Christians believe the economic reflects and reveals the ontological. Catholic theologian Karl Rahner went so far as to say "The 'economic' Trinity is the 'immanent' Trinity, and vice versa."[84]

The ancient Nicene theologians argued that everything the Trinity does is done by Father, Son, and Spirit working together with one will. The three persons of the Trinity always work inseparably, for their work is always the work of the one God. Because of this unity of will, the Trinity cannot involve the eternal subordination of the Son to the Father. Eternal subordination can only exist if the Son's will is at least conceivably different from the Father's. But Nicene orthodoxy says it is not. The Son's will cannot be different from the Father's because it is the Father's. They have but one will as they have but one being. Otherwise they would not be one God. If there were relations of command and obedience between the Father and the Son, there would be no Trinity at all but rather three gods.[85] On this point St. Basil observes "When then He says, 'I have not spoken of myself,' and again, 'As the Father said unto me, so I speak,' and 'The word which ye hear is not mine, but [the Father’s] which sent me,' and in another place, 'As the Father gave me commandment, even so I do,' it is not because He lacks deliberate purpose or power of initiation, nor yet because He has to wait for the preconcerted key-note, that he employs language of this kind. His object is to make it plain that His own will is connected in indissoluble union with the Father. Do not then let us understand by what is called a 'commandment' a peremptory mandate delivered by organs of speech, and giving orders to the Son, as to a subordinate, concerning what He ought to do. Let us rather, in a sense befitting the Godhead, perceive a transmission of will, like the reflexion of an object in a mirror, passing without note of time from Father to Son.."[86]

In explaining why the Bible speaks of the Son as being subordinate to the Father, the great theologian Athanasius argued that scripture gives a "double account" of the son of God—one of his temporal and voluntary subordination in the incarnation, and the other of his eternal divine status.[87] For Athanasius, the Son is eternally one in being with the Father, temporally and voluntarily subordinate in his incarnate ministry. Such human traits, he argued, were not to be read back into the eternal Trinity.

Like Athanasius, the Cappadocian Fathers also insisted there was no economic inequality present within the Trinity. As Basil wrote: "We perceive the operation of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to be one and the same, in no respect showing differences or variation; from this identity of operation we necessarily infer the unity of nature."[88]

Augustine also rejected an economic hierarchy within the Trinity. He claimed that the three persons of the Trinity "share the inseparable equality one substance present in divine unity".[89] Because the three persons are one in their inner life, this means that for Augustine their works in the world are one. For this reason, it is an impossibility for Augustine to speak of the Father commanding and the Son obeying as if there could be a conflict of wills within the eternal Trinity.

John Calvin also spoke at length about the doctrine of the Trinity. Like Athanasius and Augustine before him, he concluded that Philippians 2:4-11 prescribed how scripture was to be read correctly. For him the Son's obedience is limited to the incarnation and is indicative of his true humanity assumed for human salvation.[90]

Much of this work is summed up in the Athanasian Creed. This creed stresses the unity of the Trinity and the equality of the persons. It ascribes equal divinity, majesty, and authority to all three persons. All three are said to be "almighty" and "Lord" (no subordination in authority; "none is before or after another" (no hierarchical ordering); and "none is greater, or less than another" (no subordination in being or nature). Thus, since the divine persons of the Trinity act with one will, there is no possibility of hierarchy-inequality in the Trinity.

Since the 1980s, some evangelical theologians have come to the conclusion that the members of the Trinity may be economically unequal while remaining ontologically equal. This theory was put forward by George W. Knight III in his 1977 book The New Testament Teaching on the Role Relationship of Men and Women, states that the Son of God is eternally subordinated in authority to God the Father.[91] This conclusion was used to support the main thesis of his book: that women are permanently subordinated in authority to their husbands in the home and to male leaders in the church, despite being ontologically equal. Subscribers to this theory insist that the Father has the role of giving commands and the Son has the role of obeying them.

Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Anglican, and Protestant distinctions

The Western (Roman Catholic) tradition is more prone to make positive statements concerning the relationship of persons in the Trinity. Explanations of the Trinity are not the same thing as the doctrine; nevertheless, the Augustinian West is inclined to think in philosophical terms concerning the rationality of God's being, and is prone on this basis to be more open than the East to seek philosophical formulations which make the doctrine more intelligible, while recognizing that these formulations are only analogies.

Eastern Christianity, for its part, correlates ecclesiology and Trinitarian doctrine, and seeks to understand the doctrine of the Trinity via the experience of the Church, which it understands to be "an icon of the Trinity". Therefore, when St. Paul writes concerning Christians that all are "members one of another", Eastern Christians in turn understand this as also applying to the Divine Persons.

The principal disagreement between Western and Eastern Christianity on the Trinity has been the relationship of the Holy Spirit with the other two hypostases. The original credal formulation of the Council of Constantinople was that the Holy Spirit proceeds "from the Father". While this phrase is still used unaltered both in the Eastern Churches, including the Eastern Catholic Churches, and, when the Nicene Creed is recited in Greek, in the Latin Church, it became customary in the Latin-speaking Church, beginning with the provincial Third Council of Toledo in 589, to add "and the Son" (Latin Filioque). Although this insertion into the Creed was explicitly rejected by Pope Leo III (who no less explicitly approved the doctrine it expressed) it was finally used in a Papal Mass by Pope Benedict VIII in 1014, thus completing its spread throughout Western Christianity. The Eastern Orthodox Churches object to it on ecclesiological and theological grounds.

The 1978 Anglican Lambeth Conference requested:

that all member Churches of the Anglican Communion should consider omitting the Filioque from the Nicene Creed, and that the Anglican-Orthodox Joint Doctrinal Commission through the Anglican Consultative Council should assist them in presenting the theological issues to their appropriate synodical bodies and should be responsible for any necessary consultation with other Churches of the Western tradition.[92]

None of the member Churches has implemented this request; but the Church of England, while keeping the phrase in the Creed recited in its own services, presents in its Common Worship series of service books a text of the creed without it for use "on suitable ecumenical occasions".[93]

Most Protestant groups that use the creed also include the Filioque clause. However, the issue is usually not controversial among them because their conception is often less exact than is discussed above (exceptions being the Presbyterian Westminster Confession 2:3, the London Baptist Confession 2:3, and the Lutheran Augsburg Confession 1:1–6, which specifically address those issues). The clause is often understood by Protestants to mean that the Spirit is sent from the Father, by the Son,[citation needed] a conception which is not controversial in either Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy. A representative view of Protestant Trinitarian theology is more difficult to provide, given the diverse and decentralized nature of the various Protestant churches.

Questions of logical coherency

Recently, there have been philosophical attempts to defend the logical coherency of Trinity, by Richard Swinburne and by Peter Geach et al. The formulation suggested by Swinburne is free from logical incoherency, but it is debatable whether this formulation is consistent with historical orthodoxy. Regarding the formulation suggested by Geach, not all philosophers would agree with its logical coherency. Swinburne has suggested that "the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit be thought of as numerically distinct Gods". Geach suggested that "a coherent statement of the doctrine is possible on the assumption that identity is "always relative to a sortal term".[94]

Some Messianic groups, the Branch Davidian, and even some scholars within (but not necessarily representing) denominations such as Southern Baptist Convention view the Trinity as being comparable to a family, hence the familial terms of Father, Son, and the implied role of Mother for the Holy Spirit. The Hebrew word for "God", Elohim, which has an inherent plurality, has the function as a surname as in Yahweh Elohim. The seeming contradiction of Elohim being "one" is solved by the fact that the Hebrew word for "one", echad, can describe a compound unity, harmonious in direction and purpose; unlike yachid which means singularity.[95]

An argument against the logical coherency of an idea of the Trinity as composed of parts is the following: If God has compositional parts, they are either finite or infinite parts. If finite, then God is finite. If infinite, then there are multiple infinities. Each case becomes a denial of monotheism. The belief in compositional parts has therefore been regarded as a heresy since the establishment of the Nicene Creed, a condemnation reaffirmed in Protestant Creeds such as the Westminster Confession of Faith and 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith which state "God has no parts."[96] Louis Berkhof describes the doctrine of the Trinity requiring belief in a "simplex unity" and not a complex (or composite) being. "There is in the Divine Being but one indivisible essence" and "The whole undivided essence of God belongs equally to each of the three persons."[97]

The Trinity in art

Holy Trinity, fresco by Luca Rossetti da Orta, 1738-9 (St. Gaudenzio Church at Ivrea, Torino).

The Trinity is most commonly seen in Christian art with the Spirit represented by a dove, as specified in the Gospel accounts of the Baptism of Christ; it is nearly always shown with wings outspread. However depictions using three human figures appear occasionally in most periods of art.[98]

The Father and the Son are usually differentiated by age, and later by dress, but this too is not always the case. The usual depiction of the Father as an older man with a white beard may derive from the biblical Ancient of Days, which is often cited in defense of this sometimes controversial representation. However, in Eastern Orthodoxy the Ancient of Days is usually understood to be God the Son, not God the Father (see below)—early Byzantine images show Christ as the Ancient of Days,[99] but this iconography became rare. When the Father is depicted in art, he is sometimes shown with a halo shaped like an equilateral triangle, instead of a circle. The Son is often shown at the Father's right hand.[Acts 7:56] He may be represented by a symbol—typically the Lamb or a cross—or on a crucifix, so that the Father is the only human figure shown at full size. In early medieval art, the Father may be represented by a hand appearing from a cloud in a blessing gesture, for example in scenes of the Baptism of Christ. Later, in the West, the Throne of Mercy (or "Throne of Grace") became a common depiction. In this style, the Father (sometimes seated on a throne) is shown supporting either a crucifix[100] or, later, a slumped crucified Son, similar to the Pieta (this type is distinguished in German as the Not Gottes)[101] in his outstretched arms, whilst the Dove hovers above or in between them. This subject continued to be popular until the eighteenth century at least.

By the end of the fifteenth century, larger representations, other than the Throne of Mercy, became effectively standardised, showing an older figure in plain robes for the Father, Christ with his torso partly bare to display the wounds of his Passion, and the dove above or around them. In earlier representations both Father, especially, and Son often wear elaborate robes and crowns. Sometimes the Father alone wears a crown, or even a papal tiara.

Eastern Orthodox tradition

Old Testament Trinity icon by Andrey Rublev, c. 1400 (Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow)

Direct representations of the Trinity are much rarer in Eastern Orthodox art of any period—reservations about depicting the Father remain fairly strong, as they were in the West until the high Middle Ages. The Second Council of Nicea in 787 confirmed that the depiction of Christ was allowed because he became man; the situation regarding the Father was less clear. The usual Orthodox representation of the Trinity was through the "Old Testament Trinity" of the three angels visiting Abraham—said in the text to be "the Lord"[Genesis 18:1-15]. However scholars generally agree that the direct representation of the Trinity began in Greek works from the 11th century onwards, where Christ is shown as an infant sitting on the Father's lap, with the Dove of the Holy Spirit also present. Such depictions spread to the West and became the standard type there, though with an adult Christ, as described above. This type later spread back to the Orthodox world where post-Byzantine representations similar to those in the West are not uncommon outside Russia.[102] The subject long remained sensitive, and the Russian Orthodox Church at the Great Synod of Moscow in 1667 finally forbade depictions of the Father in human form. The canon is quoted in full here because it explains the Russian Orthodox theology on the subject:

Chapter 2, §44: It is most absurd and improper to depict in icons the Lord Sabaoth (that is to say, God the Father) with a grey beard and the Only-Begotten Son in His bosom with a dove between them, because no-one has seen the Father according to His Divinity, and the Father has no flesh, nor was the Son born in the flesh from the Father before the ages. And though David the prophet says, "From the womb before the morning star have I begotten Thee"[Psalm 109:3], that birth was not fleshly, but unspeakable and incomprehensible. For Christ Himself says in the holy Gospel, "No man hath seen the Father, save the Son".cf.[John 6:46] And Isaiah the prophet says in his fortieth chapter: "To whom have ye likened the Lord? and with what likeness have ye made a similitude of Him? Has not the artificier of wood made an image, or the goldsmiths, having melted gold, gilt it over, and made it a similitude?"[Isa. 40:18-19] In like manner the Apostle Paul says in Acts[Acts 17:29] "Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold or silver or stone, graven by art of man's imagination." And John Damascene says: "But furthermore, who can make a similitude of the invisible, incorporeal, uncircumscribed and undepictable God? It is, then, uttermost insanity and impiety to give a form to the Godhead" (Orthodox Faith, 4:16). In like manner St. Gregory the Dialogist prohibits this. For this reason we should only form an understanding in the mind of Sabaoth, which is the Godhead, and of that birth before the ages of the Only-Begotten-Son from the Father, but we should never, in any wise depict these in icons, for this, indeed, is impossible. And the Holy Spirit is not in essence a dove, but in essence he is God, and "No man hath seen God", as John the Theologian and Evangelist bears witness[John 1:18] and this is so even though, at the Jordan at Christ's holy Baptism the Holy Spirit appeared in the likeness of a dove. For this reason, it is fitting on this occasion only to depict the Holy Spirit in the likeness of a dove. But in any other place those who have intelligence will not depict the Holy Spirit in the likeness of a dove. For on Mount Tabor, He appeared as a cloud and, at another time, in other ways. Furthermore, Sabaoth is the name not only of the Father, but of the Holy Trinity. According to Dionysios the Areopagite, Lord Sabaoth, translated from the Jewish tongue, means "Lord of Hosts". This Lord of Hosts is the Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And although Daniel the prophet says that he beheld the Ancient of Days sitting on a throne, this should not be understood to refer to the Father, but to the Son, Who at His second coming will judge every nation at the dreadful Judgment.[103]

Oriental Orthodox traditions

The Coptic Orthodox Church never depicts God the Father in art although he may be identified by an area of brightness within art such as the heavenly glow at the top of some icons of the baptism of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Syrian, Armenian, Indian and British Orthodox Churches appear to follow the same practice[citation needed].

In contrast, the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church has many ancient icons depicting the Holy Trinity as Three distinct Persons.[104][105] These icons often depict all Three Persons sitting upon a single Throne to infer unity. The Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church follows the same practice.

Scenes that depict the Trinity

Trefoil and triangle interlaced.

Only a few of the standard scenes in Christian art normally included a representation of the Trinity. The accounts in the Gospels of the Baptism of Christ were considered to show all three persons as present with a separate role. Sometimes the other two persons are shown at the top of a crucifixion. The Coronation of the Virgin, a popular subject in the West, often included the whole Trinity. But many subjects, such as Christ in Majesty or the Last Judgement, which might be thought to require depiction of the deity in the most amplified form, only show Christ. There is a rare subject where the persons of the Trinity make the decision to incarnate Christ, or God sending out the Son. Even more rarely, the Angel of the Annunciation is shown being given the mission.[106]

Less common types of depiction

Especially in the 15th century, and in the less public form of illuminated manuscripts, there was experimentation with many solutions to the issues of depicting the three persons of the Trinity. The depiction of the Trinity as three identical persons is rare, because each Person of the Trinity is considered to have distinct attributes. Nonetheless, the earliest known depiction of God the Father as a human figure, on the 4th century Dogmatic Sarcophagus, shows the Trinity as three similar bearded men creating Eve from Adam, probably with the intention of affirming the consubstantiality recently made dogma in the Nicene Creed. There are many similar sarcophagi, and occasional images at intervals until a revival of the iconography in the 15th century.[107] Even rarer is the depiction of the Trinity as a single anthropoid figure with three faces (Latin "Vultus Trifrons"), because the Trinity is defined as three persons in one Godhead, not one Person with three attributes (this would imply Modalism, which is defined as heresy in traditional Christian orthodoxy). Such "Cerberus" depictions of the Trinity as three faces on one head were mainly made among Catholics during the 15th to 17th centuries, but were condemned after the Catholic Council of Trent, and again by Pope Urban VIII in 1628,[108] and many existing images were destroyed.

The Trinity may also be represented abstractly by symbols, such as the triangle (or three triangles joined together), trefoil or the triquetra—or a combination of these. Sometimes a halo is incorporated into these symbols. The use of such symbols are often found not only in painting but also in needlework on tapestries, vestments and antependia, in metalwork and in architectural details.


Different depictions

Four 15th century depictions of the Coronation of the Virgin show the main ways of depicting the persons of the Trinity.

Depictions using two different human figures and a dove

Other depictions

Ambivalence to Trinitarian doctrine

Some Protestant Christians, particularly some members of the restoration movement, are ambivalent about the doctrine of the Trinity. While not specifically rejecting Trinitarianism or presenting an alternative doctrine of the Godhead and God's relationship with humanity, they are neither dogmatic about the Trinity nor hold it as a test of true Christian faith. Some, like the Society of Friends (Quakers) and Christian Unitarians, may reject all doctrinal or creedal tests of true faith, though not necessarily reject Trinitarian language. Others with a distinctive understanding of "Scripture alone", like some members of the restorationist Churches of Christ, say that since the doctrine of the Trinity is not clearly articulated in the Bible, it cannot be required for salvation. Still others may look to church tradition and say that there has always been a Christian tradition that faithfully followed Jesus without such a doctrine.

Non-orthodox Trinitarianism

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) identify the Trinity (or Godhead) as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, but with a different intention than the Nicene faith. They regard these three as individual members of a heavenly triumvirate, completely united with one another in purpose—each member of the Godhead being a distinct being of physical form (God the Father, Jesus Christ) or spiritual form (The Holy Ghost.)[109] Mormons draw their understanding of the Godhead primarily from the First Vision of Joseph Smith, Jr., who claimed to have seen God the Father and Jesus Christ and recounted seeing "two personages," one of which referred to the other as His "Beloved Son." Mormons also cite Biblical script to support their position that God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost are three distinct beings. See Matt 3, Mark 1, Luke 3, John 17, John 20:17, Acts 7:55-56. In this respect Mormon theology is more closely related to John Ascunages' early Tritheistic sect than to Orthodox Christianity. The primary author of this Monophysite group was John Philoponus. He taught that there are three partial substances and one comon substance in the trinity.[110]

The Trinity in Christian Science is found in the unity of God, Christ, and the Holy Ghost or—"God the Father-Mother; Christ the spiritual idea of sonship; divine Science or the Holy Comforter." The same in essence, the Trinity indicates "the intelligent relation of God to man and the universe".[111]


Some Christian traditions either reject the doctrine of the Trinity or consider it unimportant. Persons and groups espousing this position generally do not refer to themselves as "Nontrinitarians". They can vary in both their reasons for rejecting traditional teaching on the Trinity, and in the way they describe God.

Nontrinitarian groups

Since Trinitarianism is central to so much of church doctrine, nontrinitarians were mostly groups that existed before the Nicene Creed was codified in 325 or are groups that developed after the Reformation, when many church doctrines came into question[112]

In the early centuries of Christian history Adoptionists, Arians, Ebionites, some Gnostics, Marcionites, and others held nontrinitarian beliefs. The Nicene Creed raised the issue of the relationship between Jesus' divine and human natures. Monophysitism ("one nature") and monothelitism ("one will") were early attempts, considered heretical by trinitarians, to explain this relationship.

During more than a thousand years of Trinitarian orthodoxy, formal nontrinitarianism, i.e., a doctrine held by a church, group, or movement, was rare, but it did appear. For example, among the Cathars of the 13th century. The Protestant Reformation of the 1500s also brought tradition into question. At first, nontrinitarians were executed (such as Servetus), or forced to keep their beliefs secret (such as Isaac Newton). The eventual establishment of religious freedom, however, allowed nontrinitarians to more easily preach their beliefs, and the 19th century saw the establishment of several nontrinitarian groups in North America and elsewhere. These include Christadelphians, Jehovah's Witnesses, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Unitarians. Servetus heavily influenced the theology of Emanuel Swedenborg; the church founded on his writings is a small but influential nontrinitarian movement. Some groups espousing Binitarianism such as the Living Church of God claim that Binitarianism was the majority view of those that professed Christ in the second century.

Twentieth-century nontrinitarian movements include Iglesia ni Cristo, Most Holy Church of God in Christ Jesus, and the Unification Church. Nontrinitarian groups differ from one another in their views of Jesus Christ, depicting him variously as a divine being second only to God the Father (e.g., Jehovah's Witnesses), as Yahweh of the Old Testament in human form, as God (but not eternally God), as Son of God but inferior to the Father (versus co-equal), as a prophet, or simply as a holy man.

Oneness Pentecostals deny traditional Trinitarian doctrine, while affirming their belief that God took on flesh in the man Jesus Christ. Like Trinitarians, Oneness adherents believe that Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man. However, whereas Trinitarians believe that "God the Son" (a being whose existence is denied in Oneness theology), the eternal second person of the Trinity, became man, Oneness adherents hold that the one and only true God—who manifests himself in any way he chooses, including as Father, Son and Holy Spirit—became man. Oneness believers view "Father", "Son" and "Holy Spirit" as titles, reflecting different manifestations of the one true God in the universe. Oneness Pentecostals are regarded by orthodox Christians as subscribing to the heresy of Modalism, teaching that God displayed himself in the Old Testament as Father, in the Gospels as the Son, and after the Ascension as the Holy Spirit, which is not the orthodox doctrine of three distinct and eternal Persons in one divine essence. Rather, Oneness teaches that there is only one being, revealing himself in different ways.[113]

See also

Endnotes and references

  1. ^ a b Encyclopaedia Britannica Online, article Trinity
  2. ^ a b Olson, Roger E. The Story of Christian Theology: Twenty Centuries of Tradition & Reform. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1999. ISBN 139780830815050.
  3. ^ See discussion in  "Person". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913. 
  4. ^ Grudem, Wayne A. 1994. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press; Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. Page 226.
  5. ^ Tertullian, Against Praxeas, chapter II
  6. ^ a b c d e The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (Oxford University Press, 2005 ISBN 978-0-19-280290-3), article Trinity, doctrine of the
  7. ^ a b Stagg, Frank. New Testament Theology. Broadman Press, 1962. ISBN 978-0805416138, p. 38 ff.
  8. ^ Encyclopaedia Britannica
  9. ^ John L. McKenzie, S.J., Dictionary of the Bible (New York), p. 899
  10. ^ New Catholic Encyclopedia (1967), Vol. XIV, p. 299
  11. ^ The Encyclopedia Americana (1956), Vol. XXVII, p. 294L
  12. ^ Nouveau Dictionnaire Universel (Paris, 1865-1870), Vol. 2, p. 1467.
  13. ^ Lewis and Short: trinitas
  14. ^ Lewis and Short: trinus
  15. ^ Liddell & Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon. entry for Τριάς, retrieved December 19, 2006
  16. ^ Theophilus of Antioch, To Autolycus, II.XV (retrieved on December 19, 2006).
  17. ^ W.Fulton in the "Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics"
  18. ^ Theandros, an online Journal of Orthodox Christian Theology and Philosophy, vol. 3, Fall 2005.
  19. ^ Against Praxeas, chapter 3
  20. ^ Against Praxeas, chapter 2 and in other chapters
  21. ^ History of the Doctrine of the Trinity. Accessed September 15, 2007.
  22. ^ "Neither the word Trinity nor the explicit doctrine appears in the New Testament ... the New Testament established the basis for the doctrine of the Trinity" (Encyclopaedia Britannica Online: article Trinity).
  23. ^ See for example Romans 4:24; 8:11; 2 Cor. 4:14; Colossians 2:12; 1 Tim. 2:5-6; 6:13; 2 Tim. 4:1).
  24. ^ Editor, General; Bromiley, Geoffrey W. (2002), International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: Q—Z, Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, pp. 914–15, ISBN 0802837840,,M1 
  25. ^ As in Psalms 33:6
  26. ^ As in Isaiah 61:1
  27. ^ As in Proverbs 9:1 and the Book of Wisdom
  28. ^ See Book of Wisdom#Messianic interpretation by Christians
  29. ^ a b Catholic Encyclopedia: article The Blessed Trinity
  30. ^ "Encyclopedia of Religion", Vol. 14, p.9360, on Trinity
  31. ^ Catholic Encyclopedia: article Gospel of St. John. Although the Catholic Encyclopedia admits to having "no certain historical information" regarding the date of composition of the Gospel of John, it arrives at a date of 96 CE by identifying the author of the gospel (i.e., John the Evangelist) with the author of the Book of Revelation (i.e., John of Patmos), whom Eusebius, writing in the fourth century, states was exiled to Patmos in the fifteenth year of Domitian's reign. This conflation of the two Johns is disputed, however (see: Authorship of the Johannine Works).
  32. ^ a b c d e The Oxford Companion to the Bible (ed. Bruce Metzger and Michael Coogan) 1993, p. 782-3.
  33. ^ McGrath, Alister E. Understanding the Trinity. Zondervan, 9789 ISBN 0310296811
  34. ^ Harris, Stephen L. Understanding the Bible. Mayfield Publishing: 2000.pp.427-428
  35. ^ see, Elizabeth Lev, "Dimming the Pauline Spotlight; Jubilee Fruits", 2009[1]
  36. ^ Jehovah's Witnesses interpret it differently.
  37. ^ Brown, Raymond E. The Anchor Bible: The Gospel According to John (XIII-XXI), pp. 1026, 1032
  38. ^ Gregory Nazianzen, Orations, 31.26
  39. ^ Allen, Willoughby. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel According to S. Matthew. Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark 1907, p. 307-308
  40. ^ United Bible Societies: The Greek New Testament ISBN 3-438-05110-9
  41. ^ Nova Vulgata
  42. ^ See, for instance, the note in 1 Jn. 5:7-8.
  43. ^ Bruce M. Metzger, The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration, 2d ed. Oxford University'", 1968 p.101
  44. ^ "It is written of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, 'And these three are one'" (On the Unity of the Church, 6)
  45. ^ The Presentation of Jesus in John's Gospel
  46. ^ The Scriptures on Jesus
  47. ^ John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible, John 12:41, Heb. 1:8,10
  48. ^ Albert Barnes' Notes on the Bible, John 12:41, Heb. 1:8,10
  49. ^ Adam Clarke's Commentary on the Bible, John 12:41, Heb. 1:8,10
  50. ^ St. Paul helps us understand truths about Jesus
  51. ^
  52. ^ [Wallace, Daniel B. _Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics_. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996. p270-271.]
  53. ^ [Wallace, Daniel B. Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996. p276.]
  54. ^ [Wordsworth, Christopher. Six Letters to Granville Sharp Esq. Respecting his Remarks on the Use of the Definitive Article in the Greek Text of the New Testament. London: F. and C. Rivington, 1802. p132]
  55. ^ For the two chapters as a single text, see Letellier, Robert. Day in Mamre, night in Sodom: Abraham and Lot in Genesis 18 and 19. Brill: 1995. ISBN 9789004102507 pp.37ff. Web: 9 Jan 2010,M1
  56. ^ a b c
  57. ^ "These Christian beliefs (...) have been the basis for the Jewish rejection of Christianity—even on pain of death—for the last 2,000 years. (...) The belief that Jesus was G-d and did away with the commandments was due to the influence of the apostle Paul, and later, the political authority of Constantine and the Roman Empire. They created a religion that Jesus himself would not recognize. (...) Additional substantiation can be brought from the Ebionite Christian sect, who existed as late as the fourth century and who denied the divinity of Jesus and believed they were obligated to keep the Torah. There is evidence that the Ebionites were direct descendants of the original followers of Jesus and were maintaining their original beliefs in a human Messiah. The Ebionites were excommunicated from the Roman church for refusing to accept the non-biblical doctrines put forth in the Nicene Creed."; p.24-26,39; Fourth Edition. Revised. 2001 Jews for Judaism International Inc.
  58. ^ "Jesus alluded to the doctrine of the Trinity. The Gospel of Matthew tells us that his final words to his disciples was, 'Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.' This belief in a three-part god is a basic doctrine of Christianity. (...) Although Christianity began among Jews, it was rapidly adopted by the pagans of the ancient world. These pagans believed in an entire pantheon of gods. (...) So early Christian missionaries compromised with these pagans by introducing the Trinity, a sort of three-in-one god. Even many contemporary Christian scholars see the Trinity as the result of pagan influence on Christianity. This might represent an improvement for the pagan. But for the Jew it is a regression, representing a step backwards towards idolatry. (...) The pagan gods came down in human form, copulated with mortals, and bore human children. Many Christian historians attribute it to the early Christians who were attempting to win over pagans to their new religion, and therefore adopted this pagan concept."; p.7-9
  59. ^ The Trinity in the Old Testament
  60. ^ Larry W. Hurtado, Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2005 ISBN 0802831672 pp. 573-578
  61. ^ Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology: Angel of the Lord
  62. ^ a b c d e "Trinity". Britannica encyclopaedia of world religions. Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica. 2006.
  63. ^ Swindal, James, and Harry J. Gensler. 2005. The Sheed & Ward anthology of Catholic philosophy. Lanham, Md: Rowman & Littlefield. Page 84.
  64. ^ Athanasius: De Decretis or Defence of the Nicene Definition, Introduction, 19
  65. ^ "The bishops were forced to use 'non-Scriptural' terminology (not 'un-Scriptural') to protect and preserve the Scriptural meaning" (The Arian Controversy).
  66. ^ Encyclopaedia Britannica Online
  67. ^ On Athanasius, Oxford Classical Dictionary, Edited by Simon Hornblower and Antony Spawforth. Third edition. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.
  68. ^ a b c d Bingham, Jeffrey, "HT200 Class Notes", Dallas Theological Seminary, (2004).
  69. ^ Orthodox Outlet for Dogmatic Enquiries: On God
  70. ^ Catholic Encyclopedia: article:Paul of Samosata
  71. ^ Athanasius, Bishop of Alexanria, Theologian, Doctor
  72. ^ 7:1, 3 online
  73. ^ Epistle to the Philippians, 2:13 online
  74. ^ On Baptism 8:6 online, Against Praxeas, 26:2online
  75. ^ Against Noetus, 1:14 online
  76. ^ Seventh Council of Carthage online
  77. ^ A Sectional Confession of Faith, 13:2online
  78. ^ Baptism "in the name of" need not be taken as referring to a formula used in the ceremony in either Matthew or Acts; it may merely indicate the establishment of a relationship, corresponding to the phrases "baptized into Christ Jesus"[Rom. 6:3] and "baptized into Christ."[Gal. 3:27] Compare "baptized ... into John's baptism,"[Acts 19:3] "baptized in the name of Paul,"[1 Cor. 1:13] "baptized into Moses."1 Cor. 10:2
  79. ^ Kittel, 3:108.
  80. ^ Grudem, Wayne A. 1994. Systematic theology an introduction to biblical doctrine. Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press. Page 226.
  81. ^ Athanasian Creed
  82. ^ Thomas, and Anton Charles Pegis. 1997. Basic writings of Saint Thomas Aquinas. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Pub. Pages 307-09.
  83. ^ Barth, Karl, and Geoffrey William Bromiley. 1975. The doctrine of the word of God prolegomena to church dogmatics, being volume I, 1. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark. Pages 348-49.
  84. ^ K Rahner, The Trinity (Herder & Herder:1970) p22
  85. ^ Phillip Cary, Priscilla Papers Vol. 20, No. 4, Autumn 2006
  86. ^ Basil the Great, De Spiritu Sancto, NPNF, Vol 8,
  87. ^ Athanasius, 3.29 (p. 409)
  88. ^ Basil "Letters", NPNF, Vol 8, 189.7 (p. 32)
  89. ^ Hill, De Trinitate, 2.15
  90. ^ P. van Buren, Christ in Our Place (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1957), p. 38
  91. ^ George Knight III, New Testament Teaching on the Role Relationship of Men and Women (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 1977)
  92. ^ Lambeth Conference Resolutions from 1978. Accessed May 24th, 2009.
  93. ^ Creeds and Authorized Affirmations of Faith from the 'Common Worship' service books. Accessed May 24th, 2009.
  94. ^ Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy Online, on Trinity, Link
  95. ^ Strong, James (1999). Strong's Hebrew Dictionary. AGES Digital Library. pp. 24, 284. 
  96. ^ Westminster Confession of Faith, 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith: "God and the holy Trinity"
  97. ^ Berkhof, Louis: Systematic Theology. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1996. ISBN 978-0802838209. pp.87-88
  98. ^ See below and G Schiller, Iconography of Christian Art, Vol. I, 1971, Vol II, 1972, (English trans from German), Lund Humphries, London, figs I;5-16 & passim, ISBN 0853312702 and ISBN 0853313245
  99. ^ Cartlidge, David R., and Elliott, J.K.. Art and the Christian Apocrypha, pp. 69-72 (illustrating examples), Routledge, 2001, ISBN 0415233925, 9780415233927, Google books
  100. ^ G Schiller, Iconography of Christian Art, Vol. II, 1972, (English trans from German), Lund Humphries, London, figs I;5-16 & passim, ISBN 0853312702 and ISBN 0853313245, p.122-124 and figs 409-414
  101. ^ G Schiller, Iconography of Christian Art, Vol. II, 1972, (English trans from German), Lund Humphries, London, figs I;5-16 & passim, ISBN 0853312702 and ISBN 0853313245, pp. 219-224 and figs 768-804
  102. ^ Bigham, 89-98
  103. ^ The Tome of the Great Council of Moscow (1666-1667 A.D.), Ch. 2, 43-45; tr. Hierodeacon Lev Puhalo, Canadian Orthodox Missionary Journal
  104. ^ "The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church Icons":
  105. ^ An Ethiopian Iconostasis:
  106. ^ for both, G Schiller, Iconography of Christian Art, Vol. I,1971, Vol II, 1972, (English trans from German), Lund Humphries, London, ISBN 0853312702 and ISBN 0853313245, pp. 6-12 and figs 10-16
  107. ^ Schiller, I, figs 7, 10, 11
  108. ^ Guss, David M. (2006). "The Gran Poder and the Reconquest of La Paz". Journal of Latin American Anthropology 11 (2): 294–328. ISSN 1085-7025. 
  109. ^ Jeffry R Holland, Ensign. 2007 November
  110. ^ Chapman, John. "Tritheists." 2003. The Catholic Encyclopedia. December 6, 2005. p2. [2]
  111. ^ Eddy, Mary Baker; Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures
  112. ^ See indulgences, particular judgment, primacy of the Pope, purgatory, transubstantiation, etc.
  113. ^ The Oneness of God by David K. Bernard. Explains the Oneness view of God, as opposed to the Trinitarian viewpoint.


  • Bigham, Steven, Image of God the Father in Orthodox Theology and Iconography, Studies in Orthodox iconography, St Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1995, ISBN 1879038153, 97818790381, Google books
  • Paul Fiddes, The Trinity in worship and preaching (London: London Baptist Preachers' Association, 1991)
  • Paul Fiddes, Participating in God : a pastoral doctrine of the Trinity (London: Darton, Longman, & Todd, 2000)
  • Roger E. Olson, The Story of Christian Theology : Twenty Centuries of Tradition & Reform (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1999)
  • William J. La Due, The Trinity guide to the Trinity (Continuum International Publishing Group, 2003 ISBN 1563383950, 9781563383953)

External links

Redirecting to Trinity

Redirecting to Trinity


Up to date as of January 15, 2010
(Redirected to trinity article)

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also Trinity



Wikipedia has articles on:



From Old French trinite (French: trinité), from Latin trīnitās, from trīni (three each), from trēs (three).




trinity (plural trinities)

  1. A group or set of three people or things; triad; trio; trine.
  2. The state of being three; threeness.


Derived terms

Related terms


See also


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address