Did the belief in the Trinity, one God in three persons, exist before Jesus Christ was born on earth? Why do I ask? Because there is much controversy along with confusion concerning this doctrine among Christians.
Yes, I am aware that many of you reading this post believe that the Trinity does not exist. Many of you believe that Jesus Christ was a created being. Still others of you believe that the Holy Spirit is not a person, not a being, but a power. I understand.
But, I originally upheld this Trinity doctrine due to my Catholic upbringing of studying the church’s catechism. I then stopped honoring it after being redirected and accepting unorthodox religious teachings from another Christian church.
As of today, however, I have again reconsidered back to my original position and believe that the Bible has significant evidence and revelation about God being the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. But where in the Old Testament portion of the Bible does it show this?
What I want to present to you is my understanding of the topic. I want to express why I believe this Trinity doctrine is about one God and why it was not clearly – if ever – revealed to anyone before the time of Jesus Christ.
Evolution of Pagan Religion?
When you read tracts, booklets or articles against the Trinity, often the first thing you will notice very quickly is their teaching point on how pagans, as far back as ancient Babylon, worshiped their gods in groups of threes. They would also site artifacts and writings from other ancient empires such as Egypt, Greece and Rome who believed likewise. They would then say that these pagan theologies and forms of worship then invaded and permeated the early Christian church.
Let me ask you here, is not this kind of reasoning very similar to the one taught in schools and colleges that dogmatically teach that man evolved from animals? Is not the evolution of man from ape-zoid creatures taught and revered because there is much resemblance and similarities between these animals with humans?
Just because man has two hands, feet, ears etc., as certain ape-like creatures have, presumably existing eons before mankind, does not prove an evolution of man from these animals. The same is true with religious beliefs – especially with the Trinity creed.
Just because pagans may have worshiped a triad of gods (although not three gods in one god) before the time of Moses, Abraham, and Jesus Christ, does not prove that God is NOT three individuals in one – a Trinity. This doctrine did not evolve, therefore, from the gods of the pagans.
The Old Testament God of the Bible
Before Christ was born and during the Old Covenant, God strongly revealed Himself as being one God – not two in one God; not three in one God.
Can you picture God, in Exodus 20, saying to His people: “You shall have no other gods before me” knowing full well there is at least one other individual, the Father, in the Godhead who exists and who is the same God? Two-gods-in-one were never revealed to the Israelites in the Old Covenant.
Most of you Christians believe that the One who became Jesus Christ, the son of God, always existed and that He can now be adored and be worshiped (John 1:1-4). If, however, Jesus began to exist (was created) from the Father, would there not be two Gods here rather than one? No matter how you study this, there has to be more than one individual who can be called God and still be the same one God who has always existed. Am I confusing you?
If you are confused, sorry. But, let me make a statement, I believe that the God of the Old Testament who interacted with Adam and Eve, Abraham, and Moses was the Word, the Spokesman, Jesus Christ. It was not the Father, God who strongly presented Himself to the patriarchs and the children of Israel. Why do I say this?
It was Jesus Christ who later came to reveal God the Father to Israel and to the world:
1) No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father (John 6:46).
2) 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 (John 1:1-3).
When God first spoke to Moses in Exodus 3:14, God introduced Himself as “I Am” not as “We Are.” That also means that it was Jesus Christ – the Word – who was communicating to the people of the Old Covenant.
What would have happened if God had revealed Himself to the Israelites as two persons (the Word and the Father) coexisting as one? Very likely the Israelites would have had difficulty understanding the nature of these two persons as one God. Heck, they always had difficulty throughout their existence in being faithful to the God of the Old Covenant – the one God who was always before them!
But later, Jesus Christ came onto the scene as a man and declared Himself to Israel, which was still under the Old Covenant, that He was equal with God and that His Father was God! It angered many in the religious establishment of His day.
Now, let me ask this, how could anyone who listened and believed in Jesus Christ as the son of God, not be guilty of breaking the first commandment in his culture at that moment? Yet, that is exactly what Jesus was telling His disciples and others to do – to believe in another being (Himself) as God who came down from heaven.
Did Anyone Believe?
It is assumed by many of us Christians that the disciples of Jesus understood Him to be fully God as well as fully man. I would say that the disciples did not understand. Before Christ died and rose from the dead, there was no one who really believed He was God.
Yes, the disciple, Peter, did say:
“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16 ESV)
Peter had some insight given to Him by the Father (Matthew 16:17) about Jesus’ Messiahship yet later Peter denied knowing Him (John 18:15-27). Also, could the phrase, “Son of God” here mean something different in the culture of the time? This topic, “sons of a God“, used in the Bible is an important one demanding careful study.
Anyway, the disciples continually misunderstood Jesus. They could not comprehend all that was taught them all at once. They did not even truly understand everything Jesus did until Pentecost.
They saw Him calming a storm in the Sea of Galilee. They witnessed Lazarus being risen from the dead to life. They were even given power to heal the sick and cast out demons. But still, these disciples were limited by their lack of faith in Jesus being God as seen in certain other occasions later on.
Again, it wasn’t until Pentecost that the disciples began to know who Jesus Christ really was. After Christ’s resurrection, Thomas got it right fairly quickly, at least in word, when he exclaimed “My Lord and my God (John 20:24-29).”
Although others may have called Jesus, Lord, the disciple we label as, “Doubting Thomas” was the only one who was recorded as saying, “My Lord and my God.” But did he then believe there was a Jesus, God, and a Father, God? Did Thomas then believe in a “1=2 Duo – God” or a “1=3 Trinity-God”? I believe Thomas, at that point in time, by virtue of his exclamation when he first saw and touched the resurrected Christ, was a 1=2 God believer. He believed, at that point in time that there were only two, Jesus and the Father, being only one God. Otherwise Thomas would have been a polytheist breaking the first commandment of Exodus 20.
After the death and resurrection of Christ, circa 33 A.D., we see a change of thought. The Old Covenant officially was over and a new one established based on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ; based on the sacrifice of God Himself. Much revelation was then given to mankind.
The Holy Spirit Being
Before Jesus died, before A.D., He promised He would send another Comforter (John 14:16; John 14:26; John 15:26). The disciples did not know who or what Jesus meant. Jesus was here introducing another entity, a being entity, into the equation.
Jesus did not say to them, “Soon I am going to give you the ability to do things for me.” Jesus did not say, “After I die, I will ask my Father to send forth a power to you to carry on my work.” No, Christ was introducing another being to them.
It was in how He phrased the Spirit’s existence that indicates that there is another being, the Holy Spirit, being revealed to the world. There was strong evidence for this Being when Christ said this Holy Spirit should not be insulted, belittled or offended without facing serious consequences from God (Matthew 12:22-30).
Therefore, we have three spiritual forces – beings – working together in the A.D. of our time that could not be understood beforehand – before A.D. God did not want the Trinity to be understood during the time of Genesis up to the time of Christ’s death because they were not given the ability to understand it without the help of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus Christ Cannot Be God in A Trinity?
Critics of the Trinity often throw these supposed enigmas at those who believe in the triune God:
1) To whom was Jesus praying when he was in the garden of Gethsemane and at other times, himself? (Note: I am purposely using lower case for the pronouns referring to Christ in this section). Jesus had to pray to a separate being- not himself – say these critics.
2) When Jesus was breathing his last breath on the cross, he cried (Psalm 22:1), “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?” To whom, they ask, was Jesus crying out? To himself or a part of himself?
3) Jesus died and was placed in a tomb. But the Bible says in Habakkuk 1:12, that God never dies. If Jesus were God and he died on the cross, then this verse, critics state, in Habakkuk, does not apply to Christ – Christ is not God.
4) Those who do not believe the Trinity ask, “If Jesus were God and he died, then who raised him from the dead, himself?”
5) If Jesus were God, say unbelievers of the Trinity, then why does Jesus not know what the Father knows? Why would God, this Jesus Christ, have limited knowledge (Mark 13:32)?
Impossible, You Say?
Most of you Bible students are familiar with this verse from Matthew 19:26; Mark 10:27; Luke 18:27:
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
The context of these words was concerning salvation. Peter had asked Jesus who can be saved? Jesus replied that any person can be saved – even if at a particular moment it seems impossible for him to be saved.
Therefore, what looks as impossible for God to be, God in three persons in man’s viewpoint, is possible – is a reality – with God. Man in his carnal way of thinking can never fully understand it.
To make the case that it is impossible for God to be three persons in one God, is man’s attempt to see God in man’s image. No man has seen God the Father. But man has seen the Christ – before A.D. and after A.D. – through the Holy Spirit who also helps us see Him also as God throughout the pages of the entire Bible.