The origin of the Trinity (Trinitas)

Published on September 20, 2008

By Paogin Mangte

 

I. THE ORIGIN OF TRINITY (TRINITAS)

 

THE ANTIQUITY OF PAGAN TRINITIES THROUGHOUT THE WORLD

 

This paper will propose to examine the philosophical and pagan origins of the Trinity and its early development. Pagan pantheons (national families of gods) of the various ethnic gods will be compared, and triads (sets of three gods) in these pantheons will be examined for specific trinitarian qualities. The antiquity of the Babylonian pantheon, and its subsequent influence upon the various pantheons, is pointed out.

 

The idea of the Greek “Logos” (Word), a secondary, derived messenger god, is seen in the ancient pantheons of the nations with a clear differentiation observed between the pagan-philosophical use of the term “logos” (word), and the Hebrew understanding of the term in their writings up to the time of Philo, the Jewish priest-philosopher of Alexandria.

 

The gnostic influence of the Greek and neoplatonic philosophers upon the architects of the Christian Trinity is emphasized, especially the critical role of Philo in the development of the Logos doctrine, which is a keystone doctrine of trinitarian theology. The Catholic fathers of the Trinity are identified, and comments will be made upon the comparative, developmental trinitarian theology among them.

 

Theological concepts developed by early trinitarians will be noted. One such example is subordinationism, a fatal flaw of trinitarian theology, which forever subordinates Jesus Christ to the status of a secondary, derived God. The antiquity of the Trinity is not denied. On the contrary, the Trinity doctrine has taken many millennia to develope, and is yet in the process of change.

 

Our study will show that the Trinity is actually of pagan, philosophical ancestry, and was engrafted onto, and accomodated to, Christian theology. Many scholars in comparative religion and mythology have found common relationships and attributes among the various pantheons. Alexander Hislop, in his TWO BABYLONS, seems to trace the various mythologies back to a common heritage. Hislop pointed out the antiquity of the theological concept of the Trinity by giving examples of pagan trinities in Siberia , Japan , and India.

 

He noted that the recognition of the Trinity was “universal in all the ancient nations of the world”. He went so far as to say that “the supreme divinity in almost all heathen nations was triune”. While Hislop was attempting to prove that mankind has always believed in a “trinity”, he also unwittingly shows the pagan origins of the idea of a “trinity”. 

 

NO TEACHING OF A TRINITY IN OLD TESTAMENT JUDAISM

 

Arthur Wainwright can find no doctrine remotely resembling the doctrine of the Trinity taught in Judaism, the ancestor of Christianity, until the time of Philo in the first century AD. And we know that Philo, even though he was a Jewish priest, was heavily influenced by Greek pagan thought. The idea of a “plural” God was far from the Hebrew mind. The non-canonical book of Jubilees (second century BC) alters the plural verb of Genesis 1.26, in conformity with Genesis 1.27, stating, “And after all this he created man, a man and a woman, created he them” (Jubilees 2.14).

 

Both the Palestinian Targum and the Jerusalem Targum maintain that God was addressing the angels in Genesis 3.22 and in Genesis 11.7. The Jews, who, after all, wrote the Old Testament under the inspiration of the Spirit, themselves refute the presence of any “Trinity” in Genesis.

 

VARIOUS ANCIENT PAGAN TRIADS

 

The pagan idea of a triad is very old. Sumerians, according to Morris Jastrow, paid homage to a triad of El-lil, “god or lord of the storm”, Ea, “water deity” of Eridu on the Persian Gulf, and Anu, sun god of Ur-uk. El-lil, was called “the father of Sumer ” (” Shinar “), and “chief of gods”, “creator and sustainer of life”. The universe was apparently up among these three “pre-eminent” deities. Later, Marduk, the “firstborn” of Ea, and the patron deity of Babylon , is made “god of the earth”, and his symbol, oddly enough, is the dragon. He was called “Bel” or “Baal” (lord).

 

Ashur, the god of the Assyrian capital was a “sun god”, and his consort or wife was Ishtar, the “great mother” goddess of Nineveh , a city founded by Ninus or Nimrod. Ishtar, known as Ashtoreth to the Phoenicians, and Astarte to the Greeks, was often portrayed riding on a lion. She was called the daughter of the moon, and identified in astrology as the Roman Venus (“goddess of love”). She was also known as Nana or Madonna (Lady).

 

Morris Jastrow tells us that the Mother Goddess was quite common throughout the Middle east . She was brought from Asia minor to Rome with the hope that her statue (idol) might save the Roman state from the Carthaginians. Ishtar has a bloody history as a goddess. She was reputedly the murderer of her consort Tammuz (variously known as Baal, Adonis, the Egyptian Osiris, the Greek Bacchus, or simply Nimrod). Queen Semiramis later brought forth an illegitimate son, which she claimed was Nimrod resurrected. He was called El-Bar, or “God the Son”, and “the Branch of Cush”. Thus was formulated one of the ancient triadic patterns of “father, mother, son”.

 

The early triadic pattern is noted in connection with the construction of the Tower of Babel . Diodorus Siculus, in his Bibliotheca, relates that in the topmost completed story of the Tower was placed the images of three gods. Franz Cumont tells us that triads were very common in the religion of the Chaldeans. The Babylonian triad became the Syrian triad of Hadad, Atargatis, and Simios. In Rome , this triad was Jupiter, Venus, and Mercury. Not only did the triadic pattern of deity spread throughout the world, but Cumont remarks on the continuing influence of the Babylonian priesthood after the fall of Babylon from political leadership. The system of the Babylonian priests affected many other countries worldwide (e.g., the Druids of England and Europe).

 

SOME PAGAN TRINITIES SIMILAR IN STRUCTURE TO THE CATHOLIC TRINITY

 

Trinitarians today may argue that the pagan trinities were completely different from the model of the Christian Trinity. But some pagan triads have models which are surprisingly familiar. For example, the Hindu Trinity: The conception most closely linked with Vedism and Brahmanism is that of the Hindu Trinity, the Trimurti. `The Absolute manifests himself in three persons, Brahma the Creator, Vishnu the Preserver, and Shiva the Destroyer’. The syllable we write as om, but which is in reality made up of three words, `a’, `u’, and `m’, (which) is the symbol of this trinity.

 

Asiatic Mythology and the Egyptian triad of the sun god was “one god expressed in three persons”. He was known as the “noonday sun” (Ra), “the evening sun” (Tum), and “the dawning sun” (Khepera). The sun god reportedly said, “Lo! I am Khepera at dawn, Ra at high noon, and Tum at eventide”. He was one god in three distinct persons. And so it is not correct to say that the pagan trinities do not resemble the Christian Trinity, insofar as the structure goes.

 

II TRINITARIAN DEVELOPMENT

 

NEO-PLATONIC SCHOOL INDEBTED TO BABYLONIAN WISDOM

 

The ancient Greeks were very impressed with the wisdom of the Babylonians. Franz Cumont said, “Philosophy claimed more and more to derive its inspiration from the fabulous wisdom of Chaldea ( Babylon ) and Egypt “. According to Cumont, the “entire neo-platonic school is heavily indebted to the Chaldeans (Babylonians)”. It was the neo-platonic school of philosophy which influenced the Catholic fathers, Justin Martyr, Clement of Alexandria, and Origen. Porphyry reveals that the neo-platonists had incorporated Babylonian and Persian demonology into their philosophical system.

 

PLATO CONVEYED THE IDEA OF A MESSENGER GOD (LOGOS) TO THE CATHOLIC FATHERS

 

Plato, the famed Greek philosopher, greatly influenced the Catholic fathers. He was acquainted with Babylonian wisdom, and had traveled to Babylonia , Israel , and Egypt . Plato advocated the idea of a secondary messenger god, representing the unknown primary god, who remained impassible (unable to suffer or to feel pain) and unknowable. This being was called the Logos (“the Word”). This messenger god was known in Babylon and Egypt.

 

The Egyptian god Thoth (Tammuz) was called the “Logos”: Father of Light, O Logos that orderest day and night, come show thyself to me. O god of gods, in thy ape-form enter. -Lewis R. Farnell Showerman says that the ancient writer Harpocration associated the phrase “mysterious Logos” to the god Attis (who would equate to Tammuz, Thoth or Nimrod). He also accords the Greek messenger god Hermes the title of “Logos”, and Dunlap speaks of a Chaldean Logos.

 

The idea of a separate, secondary “messenger” god is a key element in the Trinity doctrine. We can see that this idea is pre-Christian and it is pagan. The Catholic fathers obviously obtained this idea from the Greek philosophers, who in turn obtained it from Babylonian and oriental religions. It does not come from the Bible. Ishtar was identified as the “Logos” of the Babylonian god El-lil. She supposedly exclaimed, “Of the lord (El-lil), his Word (Logos) am I”. In other words, she (her priests) claimed to be the spokesperson for El-lil.

 

THE APOSTLE JOHN ATTEMPTED TO DESTROY THE CONCEPT OF A SECONDARY LOGOS MESSENGER GOD

 

The pagan concept of the Logos can be seen as a bridge for introducing the equally pagan idea of a triadic deity. The apostle John, in penning John 1.1 was actually apparently responding to those early Christian gnostics who were identifying Jesus with the pagan Logos. He specifically identifies the biblical “logos” (“word”) as God the Father Himself. He does not advocate the concept of Christ as a separate, pre-existing divine Person, co-existing with God the Father.

 

As Granville Henry has observed: Did John intend to introduce Greek philosophical, scientific or religious representations for the person of Christ? A broad concensus of contemporary New Testament scholars maintains that the logos Christology of John must be understood in its peculiarly Hebrew context. To deviate from this context and emphasize Greek meanings is to make a major error in interpretation.

 

The Greek concept of a personal, separate divine Logos, distinct from God, or a “second God”, was unknown to the apostles, and entirely foreign to their understanding of a solitary divine God, who was known to them from the days of Abraham. They recognized that sole divinity in Jesus Christ. Thomas had knelt before Him exclaiming “My Lord and my God” (John 20.28).

 

HOW WAS THIS GREEK CONCEPT OF A DERIVED SECONDARY MESSENGER GOD INTRODUCED INTO CHRISTIANTIY?

 

Philo Judaeus (20 BC-50 AD) of Alexandria was the man who attempted to fuse the strict monotheistic theology of the Hebrew religion with the transcendental theology and philosophy of the Greek platonists. As Alvan Lamson has written: The authors of the Septuagint version and the Platonists employed the same term (logos) to express totally different views: the former (Septuagint) intending by it simply a mode of action in the Deity; the latter (the Platonists) , a real being, (the Deity’s) agent and minister in executing his will. Philo was the first, we believe, who attributed to the Logos a permanent subsistence.

 

There is a vast difference in understanding the word of God as a “mode of action” (e.g., God speaking light into existence) and in understanding the word of God as a separate being from God. But Philo was to have a profound influence upon the Catholic fathers, and therefore upon the development of the Catholic Trinity.

 

Through the use of “allegorical interpretation” (what we also understand as “spiritualization” today), which had long been known to the students of Homer, and which was systematized by the Stoic philosophers, Philo began his effort to combine the absolute monotheism of Judaism with the transcendentalist theology of Platonism. He was actually attempting a synthesis of biblical theology and pagan philosophy.

 

Plato described the pagan Logos as a Jewish “archangel”. To Philo, the Logos was “the Idea of ideas, the firstbegotten Son of the uncreated Father, and the second God”. The cosmos, Philo wrote, “is held together by the power of the Logos”. The “Supreme God” is too remote and impassible to have direct contact with this world, and so it is the Logos who appears to man (e.g., as in the burning bush to Moses).

 

Philo wrote about this concept of his in the following manner: The Absolute Being, the Father, who had begotten all things, gave an especial grace to the Archangel and First-born Logos (Word), that standing between, He might sever the creature from the Creator. The same is ever the Intercessor for the dying mortal before the immortal God, and the Ambassador and the Ruler to the subject. He is neither without beginning of days, as God is, nor is He begotten, as we are, but is something between these extremes, being connected with both.

 

The reader can see that Philo’s conception of the Logos, with some modifications, is very similar to later trinitarian teaching on the Catholic Logos. Charles Semisch has stated, “The early (Catholic) Fathers only poured the contents of the scriptures into a Philonian vessel: they view the biblical passages through a Philonian medium”. Henry Malter believes that Philo actually wanted to prove that Judaism and Hellenism (Greek philosophy) taught the same divine truth in just a different way.

 

WAS PHILO A GNOSTIC?

 

If we accept the thesis that Philo greatly influenced the development of the Catholic Trinity through his idea of grafting the pagan Logos into the Old Testament teaching, then we might well consider his relationship to gnosticism. Philip Carrington believes that Philo was a gnostic, and Carrington had this to say: (Philo was) the first and only Jewish philosopher of antiquity. To him Plato was only Moses talking Greek. But in spite of his Judaism and Platonism, he shows only too many traces of that gnostic error which is so fatal to sound thinking.

 

Elaine Pagels, in her excellent study of the gnostic “gospels”, has stated that Wilhelm Bousset claims to have traced gnosticism back to ancient Babylonian and Persian sources. The gnostics believed that matter was evil, and they believed in an unknown God with lesser emanations from the spirit world. Martin Larson, speaking of Christian gnosicism, said, “The gnostic heresy had its roots in the concept that Christ had existed as a separate power since the creation of the world”.

 

And James Adam noted, “The distinction which Plato…introduced into the being of the Godhead prepared the way for the theology of Philo”. Plato’s “conception of the divine nature as a differentiated unity…(bears) a certain resemblance to the Christian doctrine of the Trinity”. Philo was influenced by Plato’s Timaeus when he called the Logos “the image of God”, and “the second God”. This led James Adam to write: The Timaeus did more than any other literary masterpiece to facilitate and promote the fusion of Hellenism and Hebraism out of which so much of Christian theology has sprung.

 

Why don’t the trinitarian Christians today want people to know the background of the Trinity doctrine? Why do they attempt to ignore the history of the doctrine? When confronted with this truthful history, many of them attempt to belittle the importance of the origins of the trinity doctrine. H.A. Wolfson declares that the Catholic fathers, in discussing the pre-existent Christ, show “unmistakable evidence of the influence of the Philonic Logos”. And Wolfson notes that: All of these (Catholic) fathers seemed to have identified the Johannine Logos with the Philonic Logos, and they also seemed to have known of Philo’s two-fold stage theory of the pre-existent Logos, and they seem to have consciously transferred this twofold stage theory from the Platonic Logos to the Johannine Logos.

 

Wolfson believes that the Catholic fathers “consciously transferred” the pagan idea of the Logos to the Christian Logos of the apostle John! How can trinitarian scholars today honestly claim that the doctrine of the Trinity has no pagan influence in it? H. Kennedy wrote, “It can scarcely be denied that (Philo’s) particular differentiation of the Logos from the Supreme God had an exceptional influence on the subsequent Christology of the church”.

 

How can trinitarians not see the influence of Greek philosophy and the Jewish priest, Philo, on the doctrine of the Trinity? Their only answer is that the Catholic fathers merely “used” Greek philosophy to confirm the scripturality of the Trinity doctrine. But since there is a glaring lack any of the components of the Trinity doctrine in the scriptures (e.g., terms such as “three persons”, “three-in-one”, “co-equal”, “co-eternal”, not to mention the word “trinity”), it is obvious that this is not so.

 

And, as Henry Chadwick said, “The history of Christian philosophy begins not with a Christian, but with a Jew”. It is sad indeed that a Jew played such a role in formulating the doctrine of the Trinity, which downgrades the Lord Jesus Christ to a subordinate role contrary to scripture. Another Jew, Paul of Tarsus, warned Christians about philosophy, vain deceit, and the traditions of men (see Colossians 2.8).

 

III ARCHITECTS OF THE CATHOLIC TRINITY

 

Clement of Alexandria (150-213 AD), head of one of the early Christian schools, which was heavily influenced by philosophy and gnosticism, admitted that he was opposed by those who still considered philosophy “evil”. He made light of their opposition and said that they were light and “ignorant”. He denounced the “so-called orthodoxy who, like beasts which work from fear, do good works without knowing what they are doing”. But Clement, of course, knew what he was doing. He had a special gnosis (knowledge) that the ignorant “orthodox” did not possess.

 

Friedrich Ueberweg says that “Gnosticism was the first comprehensive attempt to contruct a philosophy of Christianity”. The more flagrant gnostics, such as Cerdo, Cerinthus, Saturninus, and even Marcion, had been expelled from the church. These more flambuoyant gnostics were only the “tip of the iceberg”. There was still a remnant in the churches, who obviously began developing some philosophical system of Christianity that would compete, so they thought, in the Gentile world.

 

The apostle Paul was troubled with gnostics, and spoke against those who clung to “falsely-named science” (knowledge or gnosis) (1 Timothy 6.20). Simon Magus (Acts 8), who clashed with Philip and Peter, was said to have been the teacher of the gnostic Menander. Menander, in turn, was the master of the famous gnostics, Saturninus and Basilides.

 

Gnosticism, after Judaism, had the dubious honor of being the earliest heresy of Christianity. Isn’t is strange that gnostics seem to disappear, to some degree, after the ascendancy of the Catholics? Gnosticism is probably the breeding ground of trinitarian theology. Clement of Alexander is certainly one of the Catholic fathers of the Trinity. The influence of Philo and gnosticism is seen in both him and his successor Origen.

 

In Stromateis (i.vi.28), Clement wrote, “Philosophy…was a schoolmaster to bring Hellenism to Christ, (just) as the Law was for the Hebrews”. The Bible college at Alexandria , under the presidency of Clement of Alexandria, “opened its arms to the teachers of gnosticism” (Charles Merivale). E.G. Weltin called Clement a “Christian Platonist and gnostic”. Like Philo, Clement taught that the Logos was an Angel.

 

In Paedagogus, Clement wrote, “the Logos has appeared, and fear is turned to love, and that mystic angel (Jesus) is born”. And he wrote, “God is one, and beyond the one, and above the Monad itself”. According to Moses Stuart, Clement “so distinguished between the substance of the Father and of the Son as to make the latter inferior”. And Photius wrote that Clement, in his now lost work Hypotyposes, held to the argument of the Son as a creature, and asserted the doctrine of the transmigration of souls.

 

And while Alexandria may well be the site where the Trinity doctrine was transplanted into Catholic Christianity, there was an earlier writer from Athens , Quadratus, who may have written Logos theology as early as 125 AD. If Quadratus was the author of The Epistle To Diognetus, he used the Logos doctrine and praised gnosticism. Another Catholic architect of the Trinity doctrine was Justin Martyr (c.100-165 AD), who was reportedly converted to Catholicism, which was probably a small minority group at that time, in about 133 AD.

 

Justin never discarded his pallium (philosopher’s cloak). Justin taught during the time of an outburst of gnosticism (the “heyday” of Valentinus, Basilides, Cerdon, and Marcion). Justin desired to understand the Messiah in the light of Greek philosophy. He wrote: At the beginning, before all creatures, God begat of Himself a certain rational power, which, by the Holy Spirit, is also called the Glory of the Lord-now Son, now Wisdom, now Angel, now God, now Lord, and Logos.

 

THE SUBORDINATION OF JESUS CHRIST AS A DERIVED GOD

 

Justin did not teach the “eternal generation” of the Logos, as later Catholic fathers (such as one of his pupils, Irenaeus, was to do) did, but rather he taught that the Logos, or reason of God, which, was before the creation, voluntarily “begotten” (or emitted) from the Father, and was thus converted into a real, separate Person. Thus the Son became a “derived Being”. This doctrine of derivation implies inferiority, and as Alvan Lamson says, “a derived God cannot be a self-existent God”.

 

The subordination of Jesus Christ has been a hallmark of trinitarian doctrine down through the centuries. Although the Athanasians (and modern trinitarians) claim to have corrected this subordination at Nicea in 325 AD, there are those today (and especially the common people who are trinitarians) who still argue that Jesus cannot be God the Father due to His inferiority to God the Father. If Jesus is not entitled to every title that belongs to God, then Jesus is not fully God. Since we know that Jesus is fully God, we know that He is worthy of the title “God the Father”.

 

The twofold-stage theory of the Lord’s birth is a key building block of the doctrine of the Trinity. Initially, Proverbs 8.22 was used to validate this teaching. The Catholic-Confraternity-Douay Version of this passage reads: “The Lord begot me, the first-born of his ways, the forerunner of his prodigies of long ago”. This was used to show that Jesus was born before the ages. Thus, the Lord was (1) born before the ages, and (2) born at Bethlehem . The gross inferiority that this brought to the Son began to be apparent, and Catholic fathers such as Irenaeus, Origen, and Novatian, began to teach an eternal begetting of the Son in order to assure the Son’s eternal equality with the Father.

 

Athenagoras, Theophilus, who is first noted using the word triados (180 AD) to describe the Godhead, and Tertullian all held to the twofold stage theory.

Novatian, realizing that this greatly subordinated the Son, wrote: But He who is before all time must be said to have been always in the Father; for no time can be assigned to Him who is before all time. And He is always in the Father, unless the Father be not always Father, only that the Father precedes Him-in a certain sense-since it is necessary in some degree that He should before (since) He is Father.

 

He is “always in the Father”, but the Father “precedes Him-in a certain sense”? In “some degree”? What contradictory nonsense! He is “always in the Father”, but, then again, no He is not since the Father precedes Him? But this great spiritual “truth” is qualified with “in a certain sense”, and ” by “some degree”! To what lengths will the trinitarian go to keep his “co-equal” Persons and yet keep his “eternal Son”?

 

Athanasius tried to correct this imbalance dogmatically, and Augustine saw it. He said, “The Son is equal to the Father, but not while the Son is in the flesh”. By making this statement, Augustine denies the incarnation, since the incarnation is “God manifest in the flesh”. The Son is the flesh. It is not the Son in the Son, but rather the Father in the Son.

 

THE LOGOS AND THE HOLY SPIRIT MADE INTO TWO PERSONS

 

Another step in the origin and development of the Trinity was the introduction of the heretical view that the Holy Spirit and the Logos were two separate divine Persons. Wolfson notes that the Catholic fathers merely followed Philo in alleging that the Holy Spirit and the Logos were two distinct beings or persons. When the Catholic fathers distinguished between the Holy Spirit and the Logos, they were then forced to re-interpret the writings of Matthew and John.

 

John had written that the Logos was made flesh (John 1.14), but Matthew had said that that which was conceived in Mary was of the Holy Ghost (the supposed Third Person) (Matthew 1.20). And Jesus clearly identified the Father as His Father (the supposed First Person). This presented a problem for the founding fathers of the Trinity. How did they respond to this paradox.

 

Justin Martyr of Rome and Theophilus of Antioch stated that the Holy Spirit in Luke 1.35 and Matthew 1.20 was not actually the “Third Person” in this case, but rather “the Logos” (the Second Person) in a sense! Here is some more specious nonsense! Justin wrote, “It is wrong to understand the Spirit and power of God as anything else (other) than the Logos, who is also the firstborn of God” (Apology I.33).

 

Most of the Catholic fathers were astute enough to avoid the contradiciton by maintaining that the “members of the Trinity” had “cooperated” in the virgin birth. Clement of Alexandria , Irenaeus, Tertullian, Hippolytus, and Novatian all held this view. Otherwise, they would have been forced to admit that God the Father was the Holy Spirit, and that He was the Logos (Word). Just as John 1.1 explicitly states, “And the Word (Logos) was God”.

 

John of Damascus (675-749 AD) put it in the customary dogmatic terminology of the Catholic-Protestant tradition when he wrote: He was made by the whole Trinity, for the works of the Trinity are not separable…when one of the Three is mentioned as the author of any work, the whole Trinity is to be understood as working.

 

This preposterous statement surely had to be made with tongue in cheek. Because the main trinitarian argument for identifying the separate divine “Persons” is their individual functions. So if one argues that “the works of the Trinity are not separable”, then it becomes nearly impossible to identify the difference, for example, between “the First Person” (a Spirit) and “the Third Person” (a Spirit)! These early Catholic fathers rejected polytheism (many gods), but since they accepted the Platonic triad of Philo, they were forced to compromise the unity of God.

 

God could no longer be an absolute unity, but he must perforce be a “relative unity”. This is a weakness of the Trinity doctrine, since it can no longer honestly uphold the absolute unity of God (the “monarchy”). There must be a “relative unity” that will allow within it the combination of three distinct, separate elements, or what the trinitarians call “subsistences”.

 

And Wolfson tells us that the Catholic fathers were constantly aware of “a consciousness of opposition to the Jewish conception of the absolute unity of God”. This awareness, says Wolfson, is noticeable “throughout everything the Fathers say in support of the Trinity”. This is why we maintain that THE TRINITY TEACHING IS REACTIONARY IN ITS ESSENCE RATHER THAN BEING A POSITIVE DOCTRINE.

 

THE ORIGIN OF THE TRINITARIAN INTERPRETATION OF GENESIS 1.26

 

Genesis 1.26 also seems to have played a role, through its interpretation, in the origin of the Trinity. Irenaeus interpreted Genesis 1.26 to indicate a plurality of divine Persons in the Godhead: For with Him were present the Logos (Word) and Wisdom, the Son and the Spirit, by whom and in whom, freely and spontaneously, He made all things, to whom also He speaks saying, `Let us make man after our image and likeness’.

 

Where had such a novel interpretation of the Hebrew scriptures come? Certainly, as we have seen, no Jew would normally make much an interpretation. None of the apostles did. But it is very likely that it can be traced to a Jew named Philo of Alexandria, who had written concerning Genesis 1.26: When scripture says that God made man in the image of God, it means he made him in the image of the `second God’, who is the Logos. For nothing mortal can be made in the likeness of the Most High One and Father of the universe. The Logos trinitarian doctrine, in spite of all denials, and subsequent dogmatic tinkering by theologians, postulates Christ in the role of the “second God”. Today, the terminology has been slightly altered to state, “second Person”.

 

Martin Werner wrote that “every significant theologian of the church, in the pre-Nicene period, has actually represented a subordinationist Christology”. Of course, he means “every significant Catholic theologian”, since no apostolic theologian would every downgrade Christ to the status of the “second Person”. Origen (185-254 AD), although he is condemned by the Catholic church as a heretic, is acknowledged as one of the most renowned “Catholic fathers” (except for perhaps Augustine).

 

Adolf Harnack wrote that, by the beginning of the fourth century, “the theology of the apologists had triumphed, and all thinkers stood under the influence of Origen”. And Rufus Jones says of Origen, “he made a thorough study of Plato and Numenius, and was in all his thinking profoundly influenced by the contemporary neo-platonic movement”.

 

Henry Chadwick also wrote, “Origen admires Plato and Numenius, and say Numenius was familiar with the scriptures…he calls him `Numenius the Pythagorean, who expounded Plato with great skill and maintained the Pythagorean doctrines’.” And Bell says that Origen was influenced by the gnosticism of Egypt , and that he “followed Philo’s allegorical method in biblical exegesis”.

 

In Origen’s work, Against Celsus, who apparently protested the Catholic fathers’ use of the Greek Logos, called the Logos the “second God” in three places. Origen, in his interpretation of John 1.1, presaged the Watchtower Society, by stating that ho theos (“the God”) belonged to God the Father only, while theos (a god) was a lesser title given to the Son. Jean Danielou attributes this interpretation of Origen’s to Philo’s earlier theology of the Logos. And as Bell remarked, “Origen regarded the divinity of Christ as inferior to the Father’s”.

 

But to highlight the contradictory nature of trinitarian theology, Origen’s greatest contribution to trinitarian theology might have been his teaching on the “eternal generation” of the Son. This, in spite of the fact, that Origen was a subordinationist. His teaching contained what F. Baur called “the germs of both the Arian and the Athanasian doctrines”.

 

Origen wrote in his Commentary On John’s Gospel that “We believe that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are three essences or substances”. That this is tritheistic almost no one would deny. Almost all of these Catholic fathers were forced to attempt to refute the contemporary oneness theology which was still quite prevalent.

 

THE CATHOLIC FATHERS IDENTIFIED THE CHRISTIAN LOGOS WITH THE PAGAN LOGOS

 

It is incorrect to assume that these Catholic fathers did not identify the Christian Logos with the pagan Logos. Justin Martyr (100-165 AD) wrote: They who have lived in company with the Logos are Christians, even if they were accounted atheists. And such among the Greeks, were Socrates and Heraclitus. It is clear from this statement that Justin considered the pagan Logos and the Christian Logos to be the same Logos. No matter that Socrates and Heraclitus were pagans-they lived in company with the “Logos” (the same “Logos” that Justin was putting forth).

 

SUMMARY

 

Deuteronomy 6.4 states, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord”. When asked by a scribe, “Which is the first commandment of all?” (Mark 12.28). And Jesus answered and said, “The first of all commandments is, Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord” (Mark 12.29). The oneness of God is the most important commandment of all. There is only one Lord (Ephesians 4.5).

 

Jesus told the Jews, “I am from above”, and “I am not of this world” (John 8.23). And he said, “I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins” (John 8.24). The only one from above, who is not of this world, and who is able to save us, is God Almighty Himself. I would not trust a “second divine Person” or “a second God” to save me. 1 Timothy 3.16 tells us that “God was manifest in the flesh”, and 2 Corinthians 5.19 says that “God was in Christ”.

 

 “Three-in-One”, “the eternal Son”.

 

It is not possible to show the existence of even “a second divine Person”. All the differences pointed out between the Father and the Son only point to the sphere of the incarnation. A trinitarian cannot find one scripture that shows a difference between the Father and the Son, which does not relate to the incarnation. In other words, he cannot relate differences within the sphere of the Godhead. All differences are within the sphere of the incarnation itself.

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

 

1. Alexander Hislop, The Two Babylons (Neptune, NJ: Loizeau Bros, 1959)

2. Veronica Ions, Indian Mythology (London: Pam Hamlyn Ltd, 1967)

3. Arthur Wainwright, The Trinity In The New Testament (London: SPCK, 1962)

4. Morris Jastrow, Aspects of Religious Belief and Practice in Babylonia and Assyria ( New York : G.P. Putnam’s Son, n.d.)

5. Franz Cumont, The Oriental Religions in Roman Paganism ( Chicago : The Open Court Pub., n.d.)

6. J. Jacklin, Clement Huart, Henri Maspero et al, Asiatic Mythology ( New York : Thom. Crowell Co, 1932)

7. Donald A. Mackenzie, Egyptian Myth and Legend ( London : Gresham Pub, n.d.)

8. Morris Jastrow, Hebrew and Babylonian Traditions (New York: Chas. Scribner’s Sons, 1914)

9. William B. Chalfant, Ancient Champions of Oneness, 1979

10. Frederick Woodbridge, The Son of Apollo (NY: Houghton Mifflin Co, 1929)

11. Max Fisher, What The Great Philosophers Thought About God (Los Angeles: Univ. Book Pub., 1958)

12. Lewis R. Farnell, Greece and Babylon (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1911)

13. Grant Showerman, The Great Mother of The Gods (Madison, WI: Bulletin of The Univ. of Wisconsin No. 43, 1901)

14. Samuel Fales Dunlap, The Ghevers of Hebron (NY: J.W. Bouton, 1898)

15. Horatio W. Dresser, A History of Ancient and Medieval Philosopher (NY: Thom. Crowell, 1926)

16. Granville C. Henry Jr., Logos: Mathematics and Christian Theology (Lewisburg: Bucknell Univ., 1976)

17. Virgin Corwin, St. Ignatius and Christianity in Antioch (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1960)

18. John Cordner, The Philosophic Origin and Historic Progress of The Doctrine of The Trinity

19. Alvan Lamson, The Chruch of The First Three Centuries (Boson: Walker, Wise and Co., 1860)

20. H. Chadwick, in The Cambridge History of Later Greek and Early Medieval Philosophy (Cambridge Univ. Press, 1967)

21. Henry Malter, Hasting’s Encyclopedia of Ethics and Religion (ix, p.873).

22. Philip Carrington, Christian Apologetics in The Second Century (London: SPCK, 1921)

23. Elaine Pagels, The Gnostic Gospels (NY: Vintage Books, 1981)

24. Martin A. Larson, The Story of Christian Origins (Washington: New Republic, 1977)

25. James Adam, The Religious Teachers of Greece (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1909)

26. Harry A. Wolfson, The Philosophy of The Church Fathers (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1964)

27. H.A. Kennedy, Philo’s Contribution To Religion (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1919)

28. Friedrich Ueberweg, History of Philosophy (NY: Chas. Scribner’s Sons, 1908)

29. Charles Merivale, The Conversion of The Northern Nations (NY: D. Appleton & Co)

30. E.G. Weltin, The Ancient Popes (Westminister, MD: Newman Press, 1968)

31. God Incarnate, ed. John Hick (Philadelphia: Westminister Press, 1977)

32. Martin Werner, The Formation of Christian Dogma (Boston: Beacon Press, 1957)

33. Adolf Harnack, History of Dogma (London: Williams & Norgate, 1905)

34. Rufus Jones, The Church’s Debt To Heretics (London: James Clark & Co, 1924)

35. Harold Idris Bell, Cults and Creeds in Graeco-Roman Egypt (NY: Philosophical Library, 1953)

36. Jean Danielou, A History of Early Christian Doctrine Before The Council of Nicea (Philadelphia: Westminister Press, 1973)

37. K.R. Hagenbach, A History of Christian Doctrine (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1883)

38. Henry Milman, History of Latin Christianity (NY: A.C. Armstrong, 1899)

 

The author is the founding Pastor of India-based Oneness Pentecostal Christian Church Inc. (Independent Oneness Biblical Church).

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