Many find it difficult to define the Trinity, much less use Scriptures to present their case.
Many reason that the Trinity is a mystery that no one can truly understand fully. This usually occurs in many people’s minds because the doctrine simply surpasses their understanding of who the Creator may be to them. It’s quite likely that in their defense, they’ll cite something along the lines like “Look, Elohim is greater than we can understand” (Job 36:26a). Then again, there are those who’ll simply give a specific look of disapproval, suck their teeth, and imagine, “Poor guy! He’s simply lost and needs to be saved.” Then, there are those who cite numerous biblical passages completely out of its original context in order to prove their case. The fact remains that the Trinity is a doctrine that took several centuries to develop.
The Encyclopedia Britannica defines the Trinity as “[…] the unity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as three persons in one Godhead” (Encyclopedia Britannica 2014). As per the word Trinity itself, The Encyclopedia Britannica admits that “[n]either the word Trinity nor the explicit doctrine appears in the New Testament, nor did Jesus and his followers intend to contradict the Shema in the Hebrew Scriptures: “Hear, O Israel: The L-rd our G-d is one L-rd” (Deuteronomy 6:4)” (Encyclopedia Britannica 2014). It also explains how the Trinitarian concept came to be the doctrine that it is today:
The doctrine developed gradually over several centuries and through many controversies. Initially, both the requirements of monotheism inherited from the Hebrew Scriptures and the implications of the need to interpret the biblical teaching to Greco-Roman religions seemed to demand that the divine in Christ as the Word, or Logos, be interpreted as subordinate to the Supreme Being. An alternative solution was to interpret Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as three modes of the self-disclosure of the one G-d but not as distinct within the being of G-d itself. The first tendency recognized the distinctness among the three, but at the cost of their equality and hence of their unity (subordinationism); the second came to terms with their unity, but at the cost of their distinctness as “persons” (modalism). It was not until the 4th century that the distinctness of the three and their unity were brought together in a single orthodox doctrine of one essence and three persons.
The Council of Nicaea in 325 CE stated the crucial formula for that doctrine in its confession that the Son is “of the same substance [homoousios] as the Father,” even though it said very little about the Holy Spirit. Over the next half century, Athanasius defended and refined the Nicene formula, and, 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 of the Trinity took substantially the form it has maintained ever since. It is accepted in all of the historic confessions of Christianity, even though the impact of the Enlightenment decreased its importance.
The Trinitarian Doctrine underwent a succession of development throughout the course of centuries, to include The Protestant Reformation, before it became what it is today among most Modern Christians. Varying different sects of Christianity cannot agree to what the doctrine stipulates and continue to argue what they think is true. Unfortunately, this doctrine has been nothing more than a trap and a snare even among those who believe in it.
In short, the Trinity is a doctrine that developed throughout the centuries, initially defined in The Council of Nicaea by 325 CE and later redefined by the Cappadocian Fathers in the later fourth century into what many embrace today as doctrine, a compilation of beliefs that stems forth from Greco-Roman Philosophy. No biblical figure ever believed in the Trinity; they simply believed in Israel's Sovereign Deity; thus, regardless of how a Trinitarian may want define their deity, they use their contemporary reasoning to several different key verses that seem to help support their claims but really doesn't when the verses are read in its true context. It should also be noted that the belief developed in a course period of an approximate three hundred and fifty years. What does this mean? This means that no biblical authors, to include the prophets and apostles themselves, ever believed in the Trinity. It was a belief that came into what it is today after numerous contentious debates. In fact, what many reason to be "sound doctrine" by today's standards was not necessarily the doctrine that early Christians believed in centuries ago.
When it comes to defending the Trinitarian Doctrine, most Trinitarians will try to do so in a particular order. How do I know? Many years ago, I myself used to argue and defend the Trinitarian Doctrine. I actually changed my views to align itself in accordance to what the Word says after years of studying the Scriptures. Since then, I know what the Bible says and haven’t changed my stance on the matter; on the contrary, I’ve found more supporting evidence to what I now hold true as opposed to finding evidence that contradicts it.
So, what’s the particular order that most Trinitarians will defend? First, the Trinitarian will try to establish that there are three separate entities that sums up together as one G-d. Then, the Trinitarian will try to prove that Jesus is G-d, an argument that changes from defending the idea that three are one to a single person is a deity. After debating that Jesus is G-d, the Trinitarian will then get their audience to accept the idea that the Holy Ghost is equally the same G-d as both The Father and The Son.
Defending the Trinitarian view is quite problematic. As opposed to defending the idea that all three are one, most Trinitarians end up defending another doctrine other than the Trinity. This other doctrine is called "Modalism." Modalism is "[t]he doctrine that the persons of the Trinity represent only three modes or aspects of the divine revelation, not distinct and coexisting parts of the divine nature" (OED 2016). The instant an individual attempts to prove that one of the other three entities is G-d as opposed to all three being G-d, the individual is defending "Modalism" and not the "Trinity" as he might suspect.
How, then, can the Trinitarian establish the point or the idea that there are three separate entities? Well, the Trinitarian will try to get the contester to accept the idea that Jesus is G-d. The Trinitarian rarely spends time defending the idea that Holy Spirit is G-d because of the fact that there's quite a limited number of biblical verses that can substantiate the idea. Yes, Trinitarians do a great job defending Modalism (i.e., that Jesus is G-d) and do not defend the idea that these three separate entities have a perfect union with one another, Trinity. He will do this by presenting several key verses that demonstrates that three separate entities are working together as one and the same diety, but a closer inspection of these verses doesn’t really support the idea that all three entities are one and the same deity. Let’s first read these verses and reason together.
“For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word (i.e., Jesus implied), and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one” (1 John 5:7, KJV).
NOTE: "The King James Version of the Bible does not suggest a triune deity; it simply suggests that the total number of three seperate individuals bear witness to the very same account, and the account that these three bear in heaven are one and the same. However, most Trinitarians may most likely reject this biblical account because they believe that the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, is NOT in heaven. Most Trinitarians believe that they have the Holy Spirit residing within them and would perceive the biblical account as a fallacy to another doctrine that they hold as truth.
The Common Misinterpretations
Most Trinitarians will present the idea that there are three separate entities in heaven that exist as one true universal deity who they refer to as G-d. It is said that these three very separate and unique entities are not the same individual; they’re all quite distinguishable from one another in their role with humankind. No one individual is believed to be greater or lesser than the other, because it is believed that they’re all co-equal to some extent. Still, all three of these very distinguishable individuals comprise of the entity most in Christendom call G-d.
I’ve encountered several problems with presenting this doctrine. Firstly, it becomes quite apparent that the verse is not trying to condone a triune deity when read in its proper context. For example, if you were to read 1 John 5 in its entire context with both preceding and following verses, the Bible enthusiast will come to realize that John the Apostle wasn't either introducing a Triune concept or defending one either. Secondly, the Trinitarian definition is based under the assumption that all three separate entities are in heaven working together in one common union as G-d. Rereading 1 John 5:7, the Bible enthusiast will notice that these three are one as in being in an agreement or one accord; the verse does NOT say that these three are G-d as the Trinitarian argues. Lastly, the doctrine seems to defy some of the more appreciated concepts about these very separate individuals. So, begin rereading the very beginning of 1 John chapter 5 and see for yourself that the Bible wasn't trying to introduce a "new" revelation that the Jews did not have.
Let us first begin by reading these verses in context as it was originally intended.
1 Everyone who believes that Yeshua is the Messiah has become Elohim’s child. And everyone who loves the Father loves his children, too. 2 We know we love Elohim’s children if we love Elohim and obey his commandments. 3 Loving Elohim means keeping his commandments, and his commandments are not burdensome. 4 For every child of Elohim defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith. 5 And who can win this battle against the world? Only those who believe that Yeshua is Elohim’s Son.
6 And Messiah Yeshua was revealed as Elohim’s Son by his baptism in water and by shedding his blood on the cross—not by water only, but by water and blood. And the Spirit, who is truth, confirms it with his testimony. 7 So we have these three witnesses 8 the Spirit, the water, and the blood--and all three [witnesses] agree. 9 Since we believe human testimony, surely we can believe the greater testimony that comes from Elohim. And Elohim has testified about his Son. 10 All who believe in the Elohim’s Son know in their hearts that this testimony (i.e., that Yeshua is the Messiah revealed as Elohim’s Son) is true. Those who don’t believe this (i.e., that Yeshua is the Messiah revealed as Elohim’s Son) are actually calling Elohim a liar because they don’t believe what Elohim has testified about his Son. 11 And this is what Elohim has testified: He has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have Elohim’s Son does not have life. 13 I have written this to you who believe in the name of Elohim’s Son, so that you may know you have eternal life. (1 John 5:1-13)
The essence of these verses is neither to prove nor disprove the existence of a Triune godhead; it is to prove that Yeshua is the Son of G-d.
John wasn’t even trying to prove that there was a Trinity to begin with. In fact, most academic scholars and reliable resources will state that the doctrine developed with time. Most wouldn’t even dare to entertain the idea that Yeshua and his disciples did not believe in a Trinity! To add, they ignore that John was simply trying to say that Yeshua is the Messiah and that the Heavenly Father revealed Yeshua to be his Son both at Yeshua’s water immersion as well as the instant his disciples witnessed his transfiguration, a testimony we are all commended to believe that Yeshua is said being – being: the Messiah, Son of Elohim. John continues to say that anyone who refuses to believe in this testimony (i.e., that Yeshua is the Messiah revealed as being Elohim’s Son) is simply trying to prove Elohim to be a liar. This was the record that all three bore in heaven and were in agreement with as 1 John 5:7 originally intended.
These verses are quite simple to read. No one can truly misunderstand it. Still, as a Trinitarian, I had to grapple between the validity of the Trinitarian Doctrine versus the true testimony that was being presented here in the Bible. Sure, it’s easier to read one verse and say, “There it is. There’s the proof of the Trinity!” But, when you read a whole group of verses in its proper sequence to understand its full context and determine whether or not the author originally intended to condone such a set of beliefs, it makes the Trinitarian wonder as to how the doctrine came into being. Sure, a Trinitarian may read the previous verses as well as the verses that follow. However, Trinitarians tend to exercise selective reading skills. The blinders are on and they simply cannot see beyond that one verse that they are reading that could disprove their belief.
When I began to profess publically that Yeshua was the Messiah, Elohim's Son, and revealed as such, many fellow Trinitarians began to protest hostilely against me, because Yeshua was perceived by them as both G-d and the Son of G-d simultaneously. It was as if though they neither wanted to define individually the meaning of G-d from the Son of G-d as the author does: “Everyone who believes that Yeshua is the Messiah has become Elohim’s child” (1 John 5:1). Secondly, I came to realize that most Trinitarians cannot truly appreciate the true concept of Messiah because they neither understand what a Messiah is nor comprehend his function as such. Significantly, many Trinitarians fail to realize that their opportunity of inheriting eternal life is slowly passing them by because they prefer to believe in a formulated doctrine that developed with the course of time as oppose to the testimony that the Heavenly Father Himself declared of who Yeshua is, the very same testimony that all of these three witnesses bear equal account of.
According to John’s own testimony, he states that there were two instances when Elohim identified Yeshua. Yeshua’s disciples also agreed to John’s testimony. Of course, the Heavenly Father did not define Yeshua as some sort of deity unfamiliar to the chosen people of Israel, a concept that is an upfront to what most Trinitarians hold dear. Then again, neither did John or any of Yeshua’s disciples. So, I had to ask myself, “When did these two instances occur when John clearly witnessed the Heavenly Father identify Messiah?” These two instances were when Yeshua was being immersed in the water (reference Matthew 3:13-7, Luke 3:21-2), was also revealed as The Son of G-d in what’s commonly referred to as The Transfiguration (reference Matthew 17:1-9, Mark 9:1-9).
There’s another verse that most Trinitarians will argue; however, it has absolutely nothing to do with what 1 John 5:1-13 says. Though the topic of Yeshua’s baptism does arise, proving the Trinitarian Doctrine as sound doctrine usually depends on the biblical instruction that the convert to Christendom believes in: “Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19).
So, the Bible declares that we who follow the teachings of Messiah should believe in a Triune deity, right? Well, those who participated in the Council of Nicaea actually present the claim that the verse originally read something different, “Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in my name (i.e., Yeshua).” Consider for example, in Book III of his History, Chapter 5, Section 2, which is about the persecution rendered upon Jews who followed the teachings of Messiah Yeshua:
But the rest of the apostles, who had been incessantly plotted against with a view to their destruction, and had been driven out of the land of Judea, went unto all nations to preach the Gospel, relying upon the power of Christ, who had said to them, “Go ye and make disciples of all the nations in my name.”
Again, in his Oration in Praise of Emperor Constantine, Chapter 16, Section 8, we read:
What king or prince in any age of the world, what philosopher, legislator or prophet, in civilized or barbarous lands, has attained so great a height of excellence, I say not after death, but while living still, and full of mighty power, as to fill the ears and tongues of all mankind with the praises of his name? Surely none save our only Savior has done this, when, after his victory over death, he spoke the word to his followers, and fulfilled it by the event, saying to them, “Go ye and make disciples of all nations in my name.”
What can be said about those who are baptized in the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Ghost? Several things can be said. First, it can be said that the individual in being immersed into the waters to swear his allegiance to a deity that is unknown to all biblical figures. Secondly, it can be said that those who partake of such an immersion has not met a biblical criteria that has been established by Yeshua and the disciples. Lastly, it can be said that those who partook in such an immersion have too been convinced of a biblical error that demonstrates itself historically to be incorrect and due to Scripture manipulation.
In short, Matthew 28:19 does not really support the sufficient evidence that most Trinitarians would pretend to lay hold of as doctrinally sound, because the verse demonstrates to have been manipulated and juxtaposed by Bible translators who wanted to contend with an already existing group that contested otherwise. Historically, evidence by Trinitarian themselves who were present at the council meeting admit that the verse did not render in the manner that it does today.
Should Messianic Jews believe in a Trinity?
According to Eusebeus, Yeshua’s own disciples and early First Century Followers did not believe in such a doctrine. Eusebeus himself admits that the Nicaean Council was formulating something new. Eusebeus also did not know that such a formulation would later change to adopt another variant which he helped define. So, the international body of Messiah presents its finds as follows:
Pertaining to matters in identifying Elohim, the basic tenet to our faith depends on what the Scriptures say, “Listen, Oh Israel, יהוה is our Elohim, יהוה is one" (Deuteronomy 6:4). This verse is commonly referred to as “The Sh’ma,” Israel’s credence in the monotheistic belief (i.e., the belief in the existence of the Creator as being the only One True Elohim). According to Yeshua, this verse is also the greatest commandment that is contained within Torah in its entirety! (Reference Mark 12:29-32) Thus, this commandment is usually the first of many that we teach the nations of the earth. Anyone who agrees to this commandment and teaches others the same speak truth: “You have spoken the truth by saying that there is only one Elohim and no other” (Mark 12:32b).
Concerning Elohim, our faith is a matter of knowing as opposed to a matter of beliefs or doctrines that any religious institution may stipulate: “[…] we know that there is only one Elohim, the Father, who created everything, and we live for Elohim” (1 Corinthians 8:6a). Therefore, we worship Elohim as such: “O יהוה, Elohim of Israel, there is no other deity like you in all of heaven above or on the earth below. You keep your covenant and show unfailing love to all who walk before you in wholehearted devotion” (1 Kings 8:23). In fact, we keep His commandments in the forefront of our minds which stipulates: “You must worship no other gods, for יהוה, whose very name is Jealous, is an Elohim who is jealous about his relationship with you” (Exodus 34:14).
Some may try to redefine Elohim for us; however, the Bible is quite clear on how we are to perceive Elohim: “He alone is your Elohim, the only one who is worthy of your praise, the one who has done these mighty miracles that you have seen with your own eyes” (Deuteronomy 10:21). Scriptures are quite precise to make mention, “Look now; I myself am he! There is no other deity but me! […]” (Deuteronomy 32:39) Therefore, we’re impressed to accept the Bible’s own instruction when it says that “[a]nyone who wanders away from this teaching has no relationship with Elohim” (2 John 1:9).
Who, then, has the true knowledge of Elohim? Is it the gentile nations of the earth? Unfortunately, this is not so. The Bible says, “Before [the] Gentiles knew Elohim, [they] were slaves to so-called gods that do not even exist” (Galatians 4:8). Yes, strangers to the covenant of Elohim may approach us and ask us about Him, but any contest to this basic principle that we, the international body of Messiah, hold as truth is nothing more than a mere attempt to encourage us to worship a deity unfamiliar to our people as well as an obstruction to what Messiah Yeshua taught us as his modern day disciples. So whenever someone tries to oppose us for our committed loyalty to Elohim, we’re ever mindful that “The gods of other nations are mere idols” (reference 1 Chronicles 16:26 and Psalm 96:5). We also look forward to the day when the nations around the world will worship Elohim in common unity (reference Zephaniah 2:11). Until then, we remember what Isaiah the Prophet declared: “But you are my witnesses, O Israel!” says יהוה. “You are my servant. You (i.e., Israel) have been chosen to know me (יהוה), believe in me (יהוה), and understand that I (יהוה) alone am Elohim. There is no other deity— there never has been, and there never will be” (Isaiah 43:10).
As a result to what the Scriptures say, Messianic Jews are discouraged from redefining Elohim in the same manner by which the gentile nations define their pagan deities.
© 2014 by Nehr HaOlam Publications.
Winslow, New Jersey, USA
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Unless otherwise indicated, all Scriptures were taken from the New Living Translation of the Bible.
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