The Trinity Doctrine Did Not Exist Until the Late Fourth Century

This is a fact of history, often obscured, unfortunately, by apologists.

28th November 2017 by KERMIT ZARLEY

Nearly all Christians are Trinitarians because that is what their churches teach them. It was the same with me. What is the doctrine of the Trinity? It means God is one essence existing as (not in) three co-equal and co-eternal persons: the Father, the Son (Jesus), and the Holy Spirit. The initial reaction of most Christians when hearing this definition is, “well, yeah, there is the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. That’s all in the Bible.” Yes, but does the Bible teach that each is a person and equally God?

I was a Trinitarian Christian for twenty-two years. Then I questioned it, did extremely in-depth research, and changed to believing the Bible only says there is one God, who is the Father, so that Jesus is Lord and Savior, but not God. After 28 years of research and writing, I published a book on it entitled The Restitution of Jesus Christ (2008).

While I was researching this subject, I was surprised to learn that the doctrine of the Trinity that we Christians know about did not come into existence until the late fourth century. That is significant information. Why? I had always been told that if you didn’t believe in the doctrine of the Trinity, and thus that Jesus is God, you were not a Christian. That is what almost all churches have taught for hundreds of years. But did the churches of the first, second, and third centuries teach that? No!

Then, what about all of those Christians in those early centuries who had never heard of the doctrine of the Trinity? Were they not Christians because they did not believe in it? If so, that doesn’t seem quite fair, now, does it?

Not only that, the Catholic Church held its first so-called First Ecumenical Council in 325 at Nicaea. There, the 300+ bishops in attendance produced the Nicene Creed. It says Jesus is “very God of very God.” Then the last third of this creed pronounces multiple anathemas (condemnation to hell) upon all people who do not believe Jesus is very God of very God. They meant Jesus is just as much God as the Father is God. But amazingly, this creed says nothing about all the Christians who lived in the three prior centuries who were never taught that Jesus is just as much God as the Father is God. Were they, then, not Christians?

Christian teachers in the second and third centuries who wrote extant writings on theology are called “ante-Nicene church fathers.” They also are and were called “apologists.” This means they publicly defended the Christian Faith. All of those apologists believed God the Father was supremely God and that Jesus also was God but that his divinity or deity was of a lesser sort than that of God the Father. In theology, this is called “essential subordination.” That is, Jesus was subordinate to the Father regarding their essence, their very beings. I call this teaching “big God, little God.” In my intense investigation, I came to believe that neither it nor the doctrine of the Trinity are biblical teachings. But what about the Holy Spirit?

Until the late 4th century, the Catholic Church had not made any determination about the nature of the Holy Spirit, much less whether God is triune. During the 3rd century, church father Tertullian had put forth legal language, which included “trinity” (L. trinitas),[1] and the Church later used it to forge its doctrine of the nature of God and Jesus’ identity. But this former lawyer was no Trinitarian by modern standards.

Minutes were not taken at the Nicene Council. Some historians claim that this was purposeful. Regardless, there is no evidence in patristic writings that the Nicene Council ever discussed the nature of the Holy Spirit or that whether or not God  is three persons. Neither is there any such mention in the Nicene Creed. Like the Apostles’ Creed, it only says, “We believe … in the Holy Spirit.”

The chief purpose for which the Nicene Council was convened was to settle a dispute that had arisen between Bishop Alexander, of Alexandria, Egypt, and Arius, a presbyter in Alexander’s holy see. Both men claimed to believe that Jesus was God. Their dispute was about whether Jesus preexisted eternally as the Logo-Son (Alexander) or that God the Father created the Logos-Son prior to creation (Arius), in which case Jesus did not preexist eternally. So, this dispute was about whether (1) Jesus was just as much God as the Father was (Alexander) or (2) Jesus’ status as God was less than the Father’s.

Thus, church historian J.N.D. Kelly observes that at the time of the Nicene Council, “the Holy Spirit … had not yet become the subject of disputes.”[2] Indeed, I say in my book, The Restitution of Jesus Christ (p. 50), “Interestingly, the Nicene Creed portrays only a Binitarian faith. The subject of the Holy Spirit was not even discussed by the Council. Throughout the 2nd and 3rd centuries, there existed no consensus of opinion among church fathers on the nature of the Holy Spirit. Some thought the Holy Spirit (Spirit of God) was merely an impersonal power or attribute of God. Others ascribed personality to the Holy Spirit. A few refused to speculate about the matter, refusing to go beyond the express declarations of Scripture. P. Schaff explains, ‘the doctrine of the Holy Spirit was far less developed, and until the middle of the fourth century was never a subject of special controversy.’ At the time of the Nicene Council, the Church clearly had not developed what later became the doctrine of the Trinity.”

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Categories: Bible, Biblical scholarship, God

34 replies

  1. From al-A’zami’s The History of The Qur’anic Text: From Revelation to Compilation: A Comparative Study with the Old and New Testaments

    Liked by 1 person

  2. But we don’t need to define or even use a word that doesn’t occur in the bible.

    If we did it would imply that the bible was insufficient and defective would it not?

    And that we can’t have.

    That said we have to define the difference between us and the unitarians. How else do we do that without resorting to some kind of definition?

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  3. Formulations of creeds and development of doctrinal language takes time, but it was all based on Scripture. The truth of the Trinity already existed in eternity past, since Jesus said He was there as the Son in eternity past with the Father – John 17:5; (and many other texts demonstrate the Deity of the Son / Word – John 1:1-5; 8:56-58; Mark 2:28) and the Spirit was there with the Father also. (Genesis 1:1-3; Psalm 104:30) and to lie to God is the same as lying to the Holy Spirit – Acts 5:3-5; and the Holy Spirit as a person is put on the same par of Trinitarian texts with the Father and the Son in Matthew 28:19; 2 Cor. 13:14; 1 Peter 1:1-2; Ephesians 4:4-6; 1 Cor. 12; Matthew 3:13-17.

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    • clearly you never bothered to read the article.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Yes I did; that is why I wrote:

      Formulations of creeds and development of doctrinal language takes time, but it was all based on Scripture.

      Like

    • ” it was all based on Scripture. The truth of the Trinity already existed in eternity past, since Jesus said He was there as the Son in eternity past with the Father ”
      You are not in your church! The essence of your religion got developed by time in the lobbies of Roman council hundreds years after Jesus. It’s only the polytheist trinitarians who think it’s based on the scripture, while there’s no where in the whole of NT the doctrine the trinity as the christians of today believe about.
      You know that, Ken, but you refuse to admit it.

      Keep your fictional stories in the church.

      Like

    • “Therefore go and preach the gospel to the whole world; . . . go and make disciples of all nations . . . ”

      Jesus Al Masih commanded us to preach and teach the truth outside of the church alsol

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    • What is ‘Jesus Al Masih’?

      Like

    • all the four universal councils were in the east – Nicea is near Istanbul (Constantinople), Constantinople, Ephesus, Chalcedon (modern Kadikoy – on the Asian side of Istanbul) Most of the bishops came from the east. There were some from the west, Spain (Hosius) and Rome, but it was a “Roman council” in the sense of western or any kind of “Pope”, which did not even exist as an office of “bishop over all the other bishops”.

      Matthew 28:19 and 2 Cor. 13:14 and John 1:1 and Acts 5:3-5 proves you are wrong.

      Like

    • No they don’t. Mark 10:18 and John 20:17 and 1 Corinthians 11:3 all prove you are wrong without any doubt.

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    • I already refuted you on Mark 10:18; and I think 1 Cor. 11:3 – that, along with John 20:17 shows Jesus is speaking about the different roles of the Father and the Son; and while He was on earth, the Son speaks of God the Father as “God” in heaven, while He is on earth.

      But the Mark passage means “If you recognize Me as good, and only God is good; then I am God.”

      Like

    • Jesus denies he is God in Mark 10.

      Jesus says he has a God as we do in John 20.

      Paul says that the head of the messiah (Jesus) is ‘God’.

      So you are wrong. Again.

      Liked by 1 person

    • “Therefore go and preach the gospel to the whole world; . . . go and make disciples of all nations . . .”
      How can this be relevant to the fact that the essence of your religion got developed in lobbies of Roman councils? There’s a government behind those councils.

      Also, I highly doubt that Jesus commanded his disciples to do that, especially that your false prophet Paul hired himself like this ” the same God who worked through Peter as the apostle to the Jews also worked through me as the apostle to the Gentiles.”
      Did not your Paul know that Jesus had commanded his disciples to go and preach for all nations?
      Moreover, what was that (gospel) that Jesus commanded his own disciples? Could it be the gospel
      that Paul warned people from? “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.”
      Paul wanted people to reject any gospel even if it’s preached by angles! He just wanted his own pagan ideas to be accepted.

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  4. “Formulations of creeds and development of doctrinal language takes time, but it was all based on Scripture.”

    Yes it takes time reconcile the irreconcilable, namely how three distinct persons can be one person. Yes, the Godhead is a person although christians want to obfuscate that glaring contradiction by calling the Godhead a being.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. “Formulations of creeds and development of doctrinal language takes time, but it was all based on Scripture.”

    Yes it takes time to reconcile the irreconcilable, namely how three distinct persons can be one person. Yes, the Godhead is a person although christians want to obfuscate that glaring contradiction by calling the Godhead a being.

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  6. On top of that we have the logical mess of one of the persons having two natures. In reality what we have is two persons since they know different things and have different capabilities. A nature can’t know anything. Persons know things. The sum of all this is five persons. Two persons in jesus, the father, the holy spirit and the godhead.

    Oh dear what a mess! Imagine the mind gymnastics christians must do to explain this mess.

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    • They cannot! And they know it doesn’t make sense! It’s just the arrogance and the pride in their inner selves which prevent them from admitting this truth.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I wouldn’t wish christianity on my worst enemy!

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  8. “Why wasn’t your doctrine known and developed until 300 years after Jesus (pbuh)?”

    It was known in 1 John 5 v 7-8 which is a clear creedal statement, given by divine inspiration.

    The uncorrupted version from uncorrupted manuscripts, as translated by kjv translators

    So no need to develop anything.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. The following from the Constanople Creed demonstrates that all three persons in the Trinity are not equal: “We believe … in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and life-giver, Who proceeds from the Father,…” If the Holy Spirit is an equal entity to the Father and is God, then why does it proceed from the Father? And why not from the Son? Of course, even there was not this problem, the Trinity is still preposterous and irrational. But this point about the irrational and unsymmetrical procession of the Holy Spirit only from the Father is something that people have missed.

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    • I meant to also imply why does the Holy Spirit need to proceed from the other “Persons” if it is an independent Person in and of itself.

      Like

  10. Tawheed was ony invented in the 7th century- it was not known by all the former prophets. You won’t find any mention ofTawheed ar-Ruboobiyyah, Tawheed al-Uloohiyyah, and Tawheed al-Asma was-Sifaat in the words of Abraham, Moses, David or Jesus.

    Like

    • Paulus

      Muslims do not worship Tawheed/Tauhid etc. but Muslims worship Allah, the God of Abraham who is one, only and alone and no one else, nothing else as well.

      -You worship Trinity, Three persons one God, man, God Man etc. so all has to be in the Bible.

      In the Quran and in the Bible we can find, “God is one” “God is alone”, “God is one and no one else”, “God is the only true God” etc.

      So, if Tawheed is not in the Quran, we do not worship Tauhid but worship “God is One” which is Tauhid.

      God is one is not Trinity because tri means 3. God is one cannot be God is tri because mono means 1 i.e. monotheism. Tauhid did not add 2 or 3 persons to its definition. It means one God. No Muslim will tell you he worships Tawheed but all Muslims will tell you they worship Allah who is one and alone and the only true God. It that is what Tawheed means that is fine with us but it does not matter whether Tauhid is in the Quran or not because we do not worship Tauheed as you worship “3 persons one God” or Trinity that is not in the Bible.

      Even today some Muslims never heard the word Tauhid/Tawheed but still worship Allah, the God of Abraham and it tells you that Muslims do not worship Tawheed and the word Tawheed must not necessarily be in the Quran. We are fortunate though, Tawheed means one God unlike Trinity that has tri=3 but not one, mono which is absolute 1.

      Thanks.

      Like

    • If you worship the same God as Abraham, then you should have no problem demonstrating that Abraham believed in and preached Tawheed ar-Ruboobiyyah, Tawheed al-Uloohiyyah, and Tawheed al-Asma was-Sifaat.

      Where is your evidence?

      Like

    • Tawheed is in your Bible too,”The lord your God is one” So basically a 7th century Doctrine,was there in ancient scriptures..

      Liked by 1 person

  11. “Ooww. You mean the John 5:7 which was a later addition?
    Yep you just proved it alright.”

    No, it was a late removal in the modern bible versions based on corrupted manuscripts.

    Like

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