The Trinity

The vast majority of Christians consider the doctrine of the Trinity to be divine truth and a foundational part of the Christian faith, to the extent it is often believed that to deny it is to reject the Christian faith entirely. Too man consider that one cannot be a Christian unless one accepts and believes the standard position of the church, which, from about the 4th Century AD, has been affirmed as “One God in Three Persons”.  That all three persons share a single Divine essence, being, or nature. In other words, God is a single Being who exists, simultaneously and eternally, as three Divine persons… The Father (the Source, the Eternal Majesty); the Son (the eternal Logos or Word, incarnate as Jesus of Nazareth); and the Holy Spirit (the Paraclete or advocate).

The Trinity is not three separate Gods, nor one God wearing three different hats (Modalism) – but that there is only one God who exists as three distinct Persons. Christians believe that God is one and three at the same time, but not in the same way. As expressed by Matt Perman in Understanding The Trinity

“How is God one? He is one in essence. How is God three? He is three in Person. Essence and person are not the same thing. God is one in a certain way (essence) and three in a different way (person). Since God is one in a different way than He is three, the Trinity is not a contradiction. There would only be a contradiction if we said that God is three in the same way that He is one”.

However this is man’s best understanding and explanation of a mystifying, incomprehensible subject. While Mr. Perman may consider that the entire matter is “crucial for properly understanding what God is like, how He relates to us, and how we should relate to Him” (ibid.). The Bible is not exactly forthcoming on the subject, seemingly content to speak of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as being God, without explaining how it is so. In fact the lack of a clear scriptural basis for the Trinity was a disquieting problem in the early church.

The development of the doctrine of the Trinity happened in stages, over a period of at least a couple of hundred years The 325 BC 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” as the Father. The Trinity was 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.

1 John 5:7
One of the most quoted verses in the Bible referring to the doctrine of the Trinity is in 1 John. However it is widely believed that this short clause was a later addition, interpolated no doubt, in order to present unambiguous evidence for the doctrine. This disputed portion of 1 John 5:7 is known as the Comma Johanneum. 

The quote below from Wikipedia is a succinct resume of a long and complicated debate.

    • 5:7 “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. 5:8 And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.”

“The Comma Johanneum is a comma, or short clause, present in most translations of the First Epistle of John published from 1522 until the latter part of the nineteenth century, owing to the widespread use of the third edition of the Textus Receptus (TR) as the sole source for translation. In readings containing the clause, such as this one from the King James Bible, 1 John 5:7–8 reads as follows, the Comma itself here rendered with emphasis:

The resulting passage is an explicit reference to the Trinity (the doctrine that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one God), and for this reason some Christians are resistant to the elimination of the Comma from modern Biblical translations. Nonetheless, nearly all recent translations have removed this clause, as it does not appear in older copies of the Epistle and it is not present in the passage as quoted by any of the early Church Fathers, who would have had plenty of reason to quote it in their Trinitarian debates (for example, with the Arians), had it existed then. Most Churches now agree that the theology contained in the Comma is true, but that the Comma is not an original part of the Epistle of John. Several early sources which one might expect to include the Comma Johanneum in fact omit it. For example, although Clement of Alexandria’s writings around the year 200 place a strong emphasis on the Trinity, his quotation of 1 John 5:8 does not include the Comma”

According to 

“This reading, the infamous Comma Johanneum, has been known in the English-speaking world through the King James translation. However, the evidence, both external and internal, is decidedly against its authenticity… This longer reading is found only in eight late manuscripts, four of which have the words in a marginal note… there is no sure evidence of this reading in any Greek manuscript until the 1500s…

Not only the ancient orthodox writers, but also modern orthodox scholars would of course be delighted if this reading were the original one. But the fact is that the evidence simply does not support the Trinitarian formula here— and these orthodox scholars just happen to hold to the reasonable position that it is essential to affirm what the Bible affirms where it affirms it, rather than create such affirmations ex nihilo. That KJV advocates have charged modern translations with heresy because they lack the Comma is a house of cards, for the same translators who have worked on the NIV, NASB, or NET (as well as many other translations) have written several articles and books affirming the Trinity”. (The Textual Problem in 1 John 5:7-8.  Daniel B. Wallace , Th.M., Ph.D.)

To sum up (

1) The passage is found in only four Greek manuscripts (of more than 5,000 available ones), none of which dates before the eleventh century A.D. Even in these manuscripts, it appears that the passage has been rendered from a late edition of the Latin Vulgate.

2) The Comma Johanneum is quoted by none of the Greek Fathers, who had they been aware of it, surely would have employed it in their debates with the anti-trinitarians of the post-apostolic age.

3) The passage is absent from the manuscripts of all the ancient versions into which the Greek had been translated, e.g., Syriac, Coptic, Ethiopic, Arabic, and the Old Latin, and the Vulgate (in their early forms).

4) The earliest instance of this phraseology is found in a 4th century essay titled, Liber Apologeticus. From thence it found its way into the writings of the Latin Fathers, and into the Old Latin and Vulgate versions (c. 5th and 8th centuries respectively).

5) When Erasmus published the early editions of his Greek New Testament (1516, 1519), he was criticized for not including the spurious sentence. Yielding to pressure, he promised to put it in a later edition if it could be found in only one manuscript. Subsequently, a copy was produced—apparently made to order! —and Erasmus incorporated it into his third edition (1522). From there it made its way into the Textus Receptus (the so-called Received Text) and finally into the King James Version (cf. B. Metzger, The Text of the New Testament, pp. 101ff).

While there is little or no argument that according to the Hebrew Scriptures, there is a plurality in the Godhead, nor that Jesus “was fully human and fully God” and that He claimed to be God. The continuing dialogue between the Father and the Son (Matthew 3:17; 17:5; John 5:19; 11:41-42; 17:1ff) and especially Jesus’ prayer to the Father in the garden of Gethsemane furnishes good evidence that they are distinct Persons).

And he went forward a little, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass away from me: nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt. (Mat 26:39)

Again a second time he went away, and prayed, saying, My Father, if this cannot pass away, except I drink it, thy will be done. (Mat 26:42)

Many Scriptures also affirm that God was also the God of Jesus …

Jesus saith to her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended unto the Father: but go unto my brethren, and say to them, I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and my God and your God. (John 20:17)

that with one accord ye may with one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 15:6)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort;  (2 Corinthians 1:3)

The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, he who is blessed for evermore knoweth that I lie not. . (2 Corinthians 11:31)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ:  (Ephesians 1:3)

We give thanks to God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you. (Colossians 1:3)

The Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit is considered to be the Third Person of The Trinity. However the ‘nature’ of the Holy Spirit is less certain, with a major challenge coming from the Jehovah’s Witnesses who believe the Holy Spirit as an impersonal ‘force’. However this is not feasible as the Holy Spirit is referred to as ‘He’ in several places in The New Testament and ‘God’ in at least one verse.

But the Comforter, even the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said unto you. (John 14:26)

Nevertheless I tell you the truth: It is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I go, I will send him unto you. (John 16:7) (All Emphasis Added).

The Holy Spirit was involved in creation (Genesis 1:2; Psalm 104:30), the incarnation (Matthew 1:18,20; Luke 1:35), and the resurrection (Romans 1:4; 8:11).

Additionally The Holy Spirit is depicted as

Speaking ..  Wherefore, even as the Holy Spirit saith, Today if ye shall hear his voice  (Hebrews 3:7)

Thinking .. But unto us God revealed them through the Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.  (1 Corinthians 2:10)

Reasoning … For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: (Acts 15:28)

Feeling .. And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, in whom ye were sealed unto the day of redemption. (Ephesians 4:30)

Eternal .. how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish unto God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (Hebrews 9:14)

Omniscient .. But unto us God revealed them through the Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For who among men knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of the man, which is in him? even so the things of God none knoweth, save the Spirit of God. (1 Corinthians 2:10-11)

Omnipresent .. Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? Or whither shall I flee from thy presence? (Psalms 139:7)

In Acts 5:3-4, we see the Holy Spirit being equated with God:

“Then Peter said, ‘Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God.’” [Emphasis added]

Which pretty much clinches the issue of the Holy Spirit being God.  What is not clear is whether the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of The Father Himself or the third person of the Trinity

Scriptural evidence in favour of the former (that I have rarely seen referred to) appears in Mark 13 and Matthew 10, when Jesus gives specific instructions to his apostles, when they are sent out into the world.. Notice the identical instructions in both verses.. (All Emphasis Added)

And when they lead you to judgment, and deliver you up, be not anxious beforehand what ye shall speak: but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye; for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Spirit. (Mark 13:11)

This verse doesn’t say who the Holy Spirit is, only that He will give them what to say.

Notice however the parallel instructions in Matthew

“yea and before governors and kings shall ye be brought for my sake, for a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, be not anxious how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father that speaketh in you”. (Matthew 10:18-20).

Matthew is writing about the same thing as Mark, but he goes on to say, “the Spirit of your Father”. This is strong evidence that the Holy Spirit is the Father’s Spirit and not a third person in his own right.

Additionally the Bible time and time again refers to God as the Father of Jesus. Jesus Himself said God was his father, but Matthew 1:20 tells us that Jesus was conceived of the Holy Spirit.

But when he thought on these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.

that God hath fulfilled the same unto our children, in that he raised up Jesus; as also it is written in the second psalm, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee. (Act 13:33)

The word ‘beget’ means to procreate as the father, in other words ‘cause conception’ .. Therefore  one who begets is the father of the one begotten. Consequently if the Father and the Holy Spirit were two persons, then would it not stand to reason that Jesus had two father?

Verses like the following two do not necessarily prove that God and the Holy Spirit are separate Entities. It seems quite rational that the Biblical authors would refer to the Spirit as a ‘He’,  not an ‘It’…  were the Holy Spirit the Spirit of The Father Himself.

And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may be with you for ever, (John 14:16 )


But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall bear witness of me: (John 15:26)

In Closing 

“Since the development of the trinity was in stages, and those who advanced the doctrine had deficiencies in their theology, I must believe that even the councils and their definitive creeds did not bring an end to the pursuit of understanding God, nor an end to theological deficiencies. Although we may build from the early pioneers of the faith, we must seek to perfect it. I believe it is the duty of the modern believer to re-examine his beliefs about God to be sure they are Biblically based. There is no creed or tradition as important as truth, and no truth as important as God. The modern church must seek to perfect its understanding of God. This may indeed necessitate the re-examining of the doctrine of the trinity as it has developed over the centuries”. [The Development of the Doctrine of the Trinity. Jason Dulle]

What is clear is that God (Yahweh) is God, Jesus is God and The Holy Spirit is also God. How this is so and what the exact relationship is between the Three is well beyond human minds to fathom, bearing in mind that the word Elohim itself  is a plural noun (the singular form could easily have been used),  that often when God speaks of himself, he clearly uses the plural pronoun, and that equally often nouns and adjectives used in speaking of God are plural. Additionally in the SHEMA, Israel’s great confession found in Deuteronomy 6:4… “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one!” the Hebrew word one (echad) shows it to be a compound, not an absolute unity.