This simple webpage is the result of a co-worker giving me the pamphlet titled
“Should you Believe in the Trinity” By Watch Tower Publications. This will not
be a point by point rebuttal, but rather a few things that I found interesting
from a fundamentalist/mainstream Christian perspective, and some major biblical
issues towards the end. I will comment on a few things and at the end we will have a bit of a Bible study, and go over some passages that the pamphlet does not take into consideration. Form these scriptures I will form some thoughts on all of this. I am no Bible scholar, and I have not had any formal education on Greek or Hebrew, but through the internet, we can all enjoy using a number of online resources. Just for references sake, and if anyone is interested, here are a few that I use regularly:
http://net.bible.org/ Side by side translations of some of the most commonly used translations such as New International Version, King James, New King James, and New American Standard.
http://www.eliyah.com/lexicon.html Strong’s concordance
http://www.atheycreekfellowship.org/teachings.aspx. Through the Bible teachings from my old pastor. This is a great resource because Pastor Brett teaches right through the bible, so if you wanted to hear a teaching on just about any passage in the bible you can find it here.
To start, I wanted to preface this with my own personal thoughts on the original doctrine of the Trinity, and my philosophy on reading the Bible as a whole. The doctrine of the Trinity is man’s attempt at putting into words a concept that is taught in the Bible. Here are my foundational beliefs that I would like to establish when it comes to studying and interpreting the Bible. I believe that the Bible is the wholly, Holy inspired word of God and it is without error, or contradiction in any meaningful or foundational passage. So the bible from beginning to end and everything in the middle is literally Gods word for us, and it will not contradict itself. Any apparent direct contradiction needs to be reconciled somehow; 1st by scripture as I believe the best commentary on the bible is the bible itself. 2nd if scripture does not provide a clear resolution to the conflict, then prayer to God for wisdom as James 1:5 directs us to do, and I believe that God can answer those questions. I do not believe that changing, the text to conform to pre-established doctrine is ever acceptable. One of my favorite quotes is ‘do you judge the bible, or does the bible judge you’ is appropriate in this instance. Therefore, doctrine should always be subject to the text of the bible. I don’t pretend to have all doctrine down pat, or all of life’s questions figured out. I think a good text to underscore this thought is Romans 2:17-24. It’s this attitude that Paul is speaking of here where you are convinced you are a guide for the blind, and have the embodiment of Knowledge and truth. I never want have that prideful attitude. We should always be teachable. There are many things that the bible is very clear on, the Ten Commandments, or that we cannot have salvation apart from Jesus Christ for example. But there are still many great mysteries, and I think the greatest bible scholars have yet to even scratch the surfaces of the many many great truths tucked away inside scripture. That is not to say that any crazy idea goes of course, but it’s one of our duties as believers, and bible students to test the teachings that we receive against what is written in the Bible to see if they are true. This is my attempt at doing just that, so lets get started.
Not a God of Confusion Pgs 4-5.
The basic premise of this portion of the pamphlet is that we cannot fully understand the doctrine of the trinity, therefore it is not only mysterious, it’s outright confusing, and God is not a God of confusion. 1 Cor 14:33 that says our God is not a God of Confusion is then used as a supporting biblical text, but I disagree on the interpretation and use of the passage, and find the conclusion in the pamphlet to be out of context. 1 Cor 14:33 is in the context of orderly worship services, and in my very loose paraphrase, your worship services should not turn into a Holy Ghost riot. Even so, the word is probably better translated as disorder considering the context as well as other passages using the same word: Luke 21:9 is translated as “commotions”, 2 Cor 6:5 – “Tumults”; 2 Cor 12:20 – “Tumults”. Webster’s defines Tumult as: Disorderly agitation or milling about of a crowd usually with uproar and confusion of voices. This seems to be a very accurate description considering the context of 1 Cor 14:33, as well as some of the worship services I have seen in the last few years.
Finally the idea that we as humans should be able to fully understand the nature of God, is a pretty bold suggestion. Are we able to understand the mind of God? Know his thoughts, or the depths of his greatness? It’s not a case of confusion, but rather our puny brains trying to come to terms with something as complicated and amazing as the creator of the universe. The Trinity is not so much a confusing thing but rather a concept that is beyond our ability to fully comprehend. See Job 11:7, Psalm 139:6, and Isaiah 55:8 for some supporting scriptures.
Testimony of the Hebrew & Greek Scriptures Pg 6
The quotes from these two sections are all pretty much the same thing. Both sections open with a quote from The Encyclopedia of Religion. I don’t know what this is, who wrote it, or for what purpose or agenda. It sounds to me like a secular publication of some kind, and I don’t give much of an ear to a secular interpretation of Holy Scripture. Their quotes both start with “Theologians today” without any kind of qualifying reference. That may be simply because it’s a quote from a different publication, but it seems a lot like the theologians that you find on OPB, and CNN that are from the Jesus seminar. That group doesn’t believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God. As to most of the other quotes, they say there is no “explicit” doctrine or teaching of the Trinity without any explanation as to what teachings might point a theologian, or a bible scholar to come to the conclusion of a Trinitarian concept. I would guess that the quotes taken from these publications would go on to lay these out. The final conclusion is that since the Bible does not have a word for word teaching of the doctrine of the Trinity, it must be heretical. I disagree with the conclusion as I imagine most Jehovah’s Witnesses do as well since this logic is not applied to other doctrines. I don’t intend to get into these subjects, but for example, there is no biblical teaching that Jesus was nailed to anything other than a Roman cross when he was killed. Although the pamphlet doesn’t mention this, I have heard that Jehovah’s witnesses believe that Jesus was actually Michael the archangel before being born on earth, but there is no biblical teaching that I am aware of that supports this belief, let alone an “explicit” teaching in scripture. But this isn’t about Michael, it’s about Jesus, and his relationship to Almighty God, so I will keep the focus there.
The next big sections of the pamphlet cover early teachings, Ante-Nicene teachings, and pagan teachings. These really don’t interest me, and I don’t have much to comment on other than "What does the Bible teach"? That’s the only thing that matters in my opinion, so I won’t bother commenting on this portion of the pamphlet other than saying I find it interesting that Satan is the great copy cat, and loves to create forgeries of God and faith.
Pg. 13 Deut 6:4 is mentioned, so I wanted to break it down in the original language and take a look.
KJV (parenthesis’ mine) - Hear O Israel The LORD(Jehovah) our God(Elohiym) is one LORD(Jehovah). Elohiym pronounced “El-o-heem” is a plural word for “God”. El is God, and adding ohiym makes “El” (God) plural. Elohiym is used all through the Old Testament when speaking of God including Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God(“Gods” -Elohiym) created the heavens and the Earth. Elohiym is used over 2600 times in the bible and, as the pamphlet mentions later on, it speaks of the True God as well as other false gods. Although I agree that this is not an “explicit teaching” of the Trinity, it supports the concept of God having a plural quality of some kind right from the beginning (GEN 1:1). I disagree with the conclusion in the pamphlet that anyone who implies Elohiym is a reference to the trinity is polytheistic for two main reasons. Elohiym is in fact a plural word as the pamphlet recognizes, and is used as a description of the True and Living God. Elohiym implies some kind of plural qualities and greatness to God. The pamphlet also mentions at the end of page 13 that Elohiym is also used to describe a single false God Baal. When Baal is called Elohiym, it is by Elijah who is mocking the prophets of Baal, and cannot be used as an example of when Elohiym is used as a specific title for a false god. To me, the concept of Elohiym being a plural word for God is defined in Deut 6:4 as being plural but singular in Jehovah.
My God, My God pg. 18
When Jesus Cried out My God, My God, why have thou forsaken me, it was a fulfillment of prophecy from Psalm 22. It was meant to bring this psalm to remembrance to show the prophecy in scripture. This Psalm is one of the most incredible descriptions of what Jesus was going through when he had the sins of the world poured on him on the cross. But there will be more on a separation of Jesus and Almighty God later in this study.
Trinity proof texts. Pgs 23-28
Unfortunately, the “proof texts” that the pamphlet brings up hardly scratch the surface of bible passages that point to a divine relationship between Jesus and Almighty God. It seems to me that they chose passages that can easily be interpreted in a number of different ways. I consider most of the texts chosen by the pamphlet to be supporting texts of the Trinity rather than foundational texts. There are two however that are at least in part very important to the understanding of Jesus’ nature. I will also bring in some more foundational texts as well, and this is where I will finish commenting on much of the pamphlet, and begin a study of scripture.
The first is John 1:1
This portion of the pamphlet goes to great lengths to prove that “theos”, the Greek word for “elohiym”, or “god(s)” should be translated as either a god, or Almighty God based on whether or not a definitive article “ton” is used before the word theos. Just to clarify, the pamphlet is establishing a rule that states when the definitive article (“ton” translated as “the”) is used in conjunction with theos, that is speaking of God Almighty “The God”, but if the definitive article is not used in conjunction with theos, then the correct translation is “a god”. Therefore, according to the pamphlet, John 1:1 should read “The word was a god”. To support this claim they reference Mark 6:49 which doesn’t use a definitive article at all, and uses a different word, “phantasma”, not “theos”, only a single time. I didn’t think that was a very good comparison, so I used the net bible website referenced above to quickly find another verse that uses the same definitive article “ton” in reference to the Greek word “theos” that is also used multiple times in a single verse. I found that Luke 20:37 is a much better reference to test the rule established by the pamphlet. Luke 20:37 states (NIV) “But in the account of the bush, even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’”. As you can see, it is structured very similar to John 1:1 in that theos is stated multiple times in the sentence, and only the first instance of theos (The God of Abraham) is preceded by the definitive article “ton”. Translating this verse using the rule established by the pamphlet regarding John 1:1, this is what the text would read: “for he calls the Lord the (almighty) God of Abraham, and a god of Isaac, and a god of Jacob. Clearly this is not the case in this passage, as all three instances of theos are speaking of the same God. So it seems to me that either the definitive article rule that the pamphlet uses for John 1:1 is either simply incorrect, or is used only when it directly contradicts pre-established doctrine. Either way, I need to reject the rule because it’s not consistent in the scripture, and goes against the foundational beliefs I established at the beginning of this letter. Therefore, the proper reading of John 1:1 should read as: In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was (Almighty)God. The other thing about this passage is that it goes on to be even more clarifying. Verse 14 says (NIV) - 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. Verse 18 repeats this title (One and Only) given to Jesus in verse 14, but calls him God. “No-one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.” This is not the only instance of this, Jesus is also called God in John 20:28, Romans 9:5, Hebrews 1:8, and 1 John 5:20. Lets take a look at a few of these. John 20:28 Thomas calls “My Lord and my God”. What is Jesus’ response? Does he correct Thomas, and tell him that there is only one God, and I am not he? No instead he commends him and gives out a blessing for those who believe the same thing who have not seen Jesus. Even the Old Testament prophecies of Jesus and calls him God. Isaiah9:6 reads (NIV) For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. How can a child be born to us that is called Mighty God and Everlasting Father? Also Isaiah 7:14 prophecies that Jesus will be called Emanuel which means “God with us” this title is given directly to Jesus in Matt 1:23. In my opinion both through prophecy, and even the early church teachings say that Jesus in indeed Almighty God. So how can we reconcile the teaching that Jesus is both called God, yet at the Fathers side? (John 1:18) The Trinitarian argument is that they are both God, yet distinct persons, Father and Son… I don’t know if that’s 100% accurate, but it’s beginning to create a consistency where we have apparent contradictions in scripture.
Not only did the disciples and the early church call Jesus God, they also worshiped him. None of the proof texts offered in the pamphlet brings up any of these verses. Jesus is worshiped in Luke 24:52 when he ascended.
Matt 2:11, the Magi came and found Jesus and worshiped him.
Matt 14:33 after Jesus and Peter walked on the water they climbed back into the boat, and says “Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, Truly you are the Son of God”. There was no rebuke for their worshiping Jesus.
Matt 28:9: Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him.
Matt 28:17-18 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” This time there was no rebuke for this worship, but rather for those who doubted. Jesus came to them and told them that he has all authority in heaven and earth.
These 4 references from Matthew are all the same word for worship. This word is also used a number of times in Revelation where the elders all bow down and worship God seated on his throne. Here are the references Rev 5:14, 7:11, 11:16, and 19:4.
One can even say when Mary poured out the costly perfume on Jesus’ feet and wiped them with her hair was a beautiful act and illustration of worship although it is not specifically called that in John 12. But to me one of the most powerful verses in which Jesus is worshiped is Hebrews 1:6 And again when God brings his firstborn into the world he says, Let all Gods angels worship him. The words “let all” is actually translated from the same word that is translated as worship, and the word used for worship is a command, or a direct order (as if in the military) to worship Jesus. So my own translation of this verse would read something like this “Worship God’s angels, I command you to worship him (Jesus)”. Vs. 8 is also pretty interesting in that God calls the Son “O God”.
Jesus is called God, he is worshiped, what other qualities does he share with Almighty God? Jesus speaks of himself as the First and the Last, Alpha and Omega.
There are two points in Revelation that I believe are very clear that Jesus refers to himself as the First and the Last, or Alpha and Omega. Rev 1:12-20 is an encounter that John has with Jesus. Verse 17 he says “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last”. The reason I believe that it is absolutely Jesus here is that the very next verse 18 he says “I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever!” This is a clear reference to his death and resurrection. Again in Revelation chapter 22 vs. 12-17 is all one continuous speaker. I also think this is the same speaker that we had in chapter 1. Verse 13 says “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” It’s interesting to me that the speaker here uses the same “First and Last” statement that Jesus used in Chapter 3 along with Beginning and the End, and Alpha and Omega as well. Verse 16, the speaker identifies himself “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony...”
On a side note, I also find this statement by Jesus very interesting considering the opening verses of this book. Rev 1:1 – The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who testifies of everything he saw... Who sent the angel to John? Rev 1:1 says it was God, Rev 22:16 says it was Jesus. How can we reconcile this apparent contradiction? I think it’s becoming increasingly clear that Jesus is the physical representation of Almighty God himself, and that leads us into Paul’s teaching in Colossians.
Jesus is spoken of as Devine in Col 1:19, and again in Col 2:9
Starting with Col 2:9, this is very clear: For in Christ all the fullness of Deity (nature of God) lives in bodily form.
Col 1:15 Paul says that Jesus is the image of the invisible God. It appears to me that God simply created himself a body (Jesus) to inhabit. As vs. 19 says God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him. So it’s clear to me that from these passages alone that Jesus is fully God. The other interesting thing from this passage is verse 16 where we learn that Jesus created all things in heaven or on earth. All things were created by him and for him. John 1:3 says something very similar “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” You said that you believe God created Jesus first, then Jesus created everything else in the universe. This begs two quick questions. First, when was Jesus created? John 1:1 says it was in the beginning. So I read this as Jesus was already there when time began, it was in the beginning, not at the beginning. This is also supported in 2 Tim 1:9 that speaks of Jesus’ existence before time began. So I hesitate to accept the idea that Jesus is nothing more than a created being. The 2nd question is can one create oneself? Col 1:16 says that Jesus created all things… all things were created by him. John 1:3 also says Through him all things were made, and there is nothing that he didn’t make. (my paraphrase). These statements would include his own person. If Jesus is a created being, then how could he have created himself? That would contradict these two passages as well as simple logic. That is also why you see the word [other] in brackets in the NWT that is published by Watch Tower, but the word “other” is not found in the original text. Again adding the word “other” breaks a rule that I established at the beginning of this letter in changing scripture to fit pre-established doctrine. But I guess if you are God you can create yourself a dwelling place, or a body to live in. But the very interesting thing about these passages is if you compare them to Isaiah 44:24, we find that Jehovah created all things “This is what the LORD says – your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb: I am the LORD who has made all things who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself”. Where LORD is in all caps, that is the proper name for God, or “Jehovah”. These passages apparently directly contradict each other. How can Jesus be the creator of the heavens and the Earth as both John 1, and Col 1 state, but then Jehovah say that he did it all alone by himself in Isaiah 44? I think there is a big clue here where the LORD calls himself our Redeemer. It was Jesus that redeemed us, and paid the price that we owed for our sin. The only answer I can come up with, the only thing that makes sense to me is that Jesus is the physical incarnation of Almighty God himself just as taught in Colossians 1:15-19, and chapter 2 vs. 9.
Although most of my focus has been on the person and nature of Jesus, it seems to me that scripture is very clear that the nature of Jesus, the Holy Spirit and Almighty God are very much intertwined. Is this absolute evidence that the Trinity as originally defined in the Athanasian Creed absolutely correct? I still maintain that the doctrine of the Trinity is mans attempt to put into words a theme that is taught throughout the Bible from the beginning Gen 1:1 to the end Rev 22:16, and many points in between. It may, or may not be a perfect definition of the relationship between God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit, but I am compelled by the evidence found in scripture to believe it to be a very close.
So what about verses like Mark 13:32 where Jesus doesn’t know when he will return, but only the Father who is in Heaven? Why would Jesus being God himself say that only the Father in Heaven knows this information? Shouldn’t Jesus know this if he was in fact God? How do we reconcile that with the rest of the passages that I have referenced in this letter, or the rest of the bible? I think that this does in fact show a clear separation between God the Father and Jesus that is evident throughout the gospels, not only in this verse but in others as well. He didn’t lie, in fact, he is unable to tell a lie, so Jesus in fact didn’t know the time or day at least while he was still in his earthly body. Is it possible that when Jesus came to earth, he willingly chose to forget certain things while in his human body? God certainly has the amazing ability to forget our sins that have been forgiven. Could he have separated himself from knowledge that he didn’t want us to have like the timing of his second coming? He certainly wanted us to live like it could be at any moment. If we knew it would be a couple of thousand years, apathy would most certainly have set in, and that would have killed the early church movement. So it makes sense to me that he wouldn’t want that knowledge to be reveled. What is my final conclusion? From these scriptures I know that Jesus is God. Do I have all of the finer details figured out? No, will I go on praying to, studying, and worshiping Jesus and God as the bible teaches us to do. I rest on Romans 10:11-13 that says Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame… for Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.