The Christian doctrine of the Trinity defines God as three divine persons (Greek: ὑποστάσεις):[1] the Father, the Son (Jesus Christ), and the Holy Spirit. The three persons are distinct yet coexist in unity, and are co-equal, co-eternal and consubstantial (Greek: ὁμοούσιοι). Put another way, the three persons of the Trinity are of one being (Greek: οὐσία).[2] The Trinity is considered to be a mystery of Christian faith.[3]

According to this doctrine, God exists as three persons but is one God, meaning that God the Son and God the Holy Spirit have exactly the same nature or being as God the Father in every way.[4] Whatever attributes and power God the Father has, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit have as well.[4] "Thus, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are also eternal, omnipresent, omnipotent, infinitely wise, infinitely holy, infinitely loving, omniscient."[4]

According to James Rendel Harris (1852-1941), the doctrine developed as early Christians tried to reconcile the traditional Jewish monotheism recorded in the Hebrew Scriptures with their portrayal of Jesus as also divine.[5] According to the author of the article on the Trinity in the current Encyclopaedia Britannica, the doctrine of the Trinity developed as the earliest Christians harmonized, over several centuries, the monotheism of the Hebrew Scriptures with their understanding not only of Jesus but also of what they saw as the presence and power of God among them, a presence and power that they called the Holy Spirit.[6][7] They associated Father, Son, and Holy Spirit together in passages such as the baptismal formula of Matthew 28:19,[6] which became the most influential text,[8] and the Pauline blessing of 2 Corinthians 13:14[6][8] In the 3rd century views that were later considered unorthodox[8] were adopted, such as subordinationism and modalism.[6][8] The doctrine of the Trinity took the form that has since been maintained in all the historic confessions of Christianity[6] by the end of the 4th century as a result of controversies concerning the proper sense in which to apply to God, Christ and the Holy Spirit terms such as "person", "nature", "essence", and "substance".[6][8][9][10]

Trinitarianism contrasts with non-Trinitarian positions which include Binitarianism (one deity/two persons), Unitarianism (one deity/one person), the Oneness or Modalism belief, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' view of the Godhead as three separate beings who are one in purpose rather than in essence.



The "Shield of the Trinity" or "Scutum Fidei" diagram of traditional Western Christian symbolism.

The English word Trinity is derived from Latin Trinitas, meaning "the number three, a triad".[11] This abstract noun is formed from the adjective trinus (three each, threefold, triple),[12] as the word unitas is the abstract noun formed from unus (one).

The corresponding word in Greek is Τριάς, meaning "a set of three" or "the number three".[13]

The first recorded use of this Greek word in Christian theology (though not about the Divine Trinity) was by Theophilus of Antioch in about 170. He wrote:[14][15]

"In like manner also the three days which were before the luminaries, are types of the Trinity [Τριάδος], of God, and His Word, and His wisdom. And the fourth is the type of man, who needs light, that so there may be God, the Word, wisdom, man."[16]

Tertullian, a Latin theologian who wrote in the early 3rd century, is credited with using the words "Trinity",[17] "person" and "substance"[18] to explain that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are "one in essence—not one in Person".[19]

About a century later, in 325, the First Council of Nicaea established the doctrine of the Trinity as orthodoxy and adopted the Nicene Creed, which described Christ as "God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance (homoousios) with the Father".


In the Trinity doctrine, each person is understood as having the same identical essence or nature, not merely similar natures. The being of Christ can be said to have dominated theological discussions and councils of the church until the 7th century, and resulted in the Nicene and Constantinopolitan creeds, the Ephesine Formula of 431, the Christological statement of the Epistola Dogmatica of Leo I to Flavianus, and the condemnation of Monothelism in the Sixth Ecumenical Council (680-681). From these councils, the following christological doctrines were condemned as heresies: Ebionism, Docetism, Basilidianism, Alogism or Artemonism, Patripassianism, Sabellianism, Arianism, Apollinarianism, Nestorianism, Eutychianism, Monophysitism, and Monothelitism.[20] Since the beginning of the third century[21] the doctrine of the Trinity has been stated as "the one God exists in three Persons and one substance, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit."[8] Trinitarianism, belief in the Trinity, is a mark of Roman Catholicism, Eastern and Oriental Orthodoxy as well as of the "mainstream traditions" arising from the Protestant Reformation, such as Anglicanism, Baptist, Methodism, Lutheranism and Presbyterianism. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church describes the Trinity as "the central dogma of Christian theology".[8]

References used from Scripture

God the Father (top), and the Holy Spirit (represented by a dove) depicted above Jesus, painting by Francesco Albani

Although the New Testament does not use the word "Τριάς" (Trinity) nor explicitly teach it, it provided the material upon which the doctrine of the Trinity was formulated.[22] Reflection by early Christians on passages such as the Great Commission: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit"[Matt 28:19] and Paul the Apostle's blessing: "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all,"[2 Cor. 13:13] while at the same time the Jewish Shema Yisrael: "Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one."[Deuteronomy 6:4][6] led the early Christians to question which way the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are in unity. Later, the diverse references to God, Jesus, and the Spirit found in the New Testament were systematized into a Trinity—one God subsisting in three persons and one substance—to combat heretical tendencies of how the three are related and to defend the church against charges of worshiping two or three gods.[23]

In addition, the Old Testament has also been interpreted as foreshadowing the Trinity,[24] by referring to God's word,[Ps 33:6] his spirit,[Isa 61:1] and Wisdom,[Prov 9:1] as well as narratives such as the appearance of the three men to Abraham.[Gen 18][8] However, it is generally agreed that it would go beyond the intention and spirit of the Old Testament to correlate these notions directly with later Trinitarian doctrine.[25][26]

Some Church Fathers believed that a knowledge of the mystery was granted to the prophets and saints of the "Old Dispensation", and that they identified the divine messenger of Genesis 16:7, 21:17, 31:11, Exodus 3:2 and Wisdom of the sapiential books with the Son, and "the spirit of the Lord" with the Holy Spirit.[25] Other Church Fathers, such as Gregory Nazianzen, argued in his Orations that the revelation was gradual:

The Old Testament proclaimed the Father openly, and the Son more obscurely. The New manifested the Son, and suggested the deity of the Spirit. Now the Spirit himself dwells among us, and supplies us with a clearer demonstration of himself. For it was not safe, when the Godhead of the Father was not yet acknowledged, plainly to proclaim the Son; nor when that of the Son was not yet received to burden us further.[27]

Some scholars dispute the authenticity of the Trinity and argue that the doctrine is the result of "later theological interpretations of Christ's nature and function."[28][29] The concept was expressed in early writings from the beginning of the 2nd century forward, and other scholars hold that the way the New Testament repeatedly speaks of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit is such as to "compel a trinitarian understanding of God".[30]

References to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

The earliest known depiction of the Trinity, Dogmatic Sarcophagus, 350 A.D.[31] Vatican Museums.

Some biblical verses specifically reference the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as distinct entities in a single narrative. While trinitarians interpret these passages as support for the notion of a Trinity, because these verses speak of distinct entities mentioned by name, and not of a Trinity, non-trinitarians also appeal to these verses in support of their argument that a Trinity was not envisioned at the time of their authorship.

  • "As soon as Jesus Christ was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and landing on him. And a voice from heaven said, 'This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.'"[Mt 3:16–17] [Mk 1:10–11] [Luke 3:22] [John 1:32]
  • "The angel answered and said to her, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.'"[Luke 1:35]
  • "How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!"[Heb 9:14]
  • "But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God." [Acts 7:55]
  • This passage contains many complex formulations of the relationship between God, Christ, and Spirit, including "the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead,"[Rom 8:11] "all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God,"[8:14-17] and "the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God."[8:26-27]

Some verses also reference the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as part of a single formula, which trinitarians view as support of a Trinity, though not explicitly stated. Non-trinitarians argue that because these verses are conclusions to their respective books, they may be later trinitarian formulaic additions to the original works, which were added after the doctrine of the Trinity had begun to be debated and accepted as dogmatic.[32]

  • "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit"[Mt 28:19] (see Trinitarian formula). It has been claimed that writings of Eusebius show the mention of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to have displaced a request by Jesus that his disciples baptize people in his name.[33] However, all extant manuscripts of the Gospel of Matthew unanimously contain the trinitarian baptismal formula without variation at 28:19.[34]
  • "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you."[2 Cor. 13:14]

Comma Johanneum

In addition to these, 1 John 5:7, which is found in the King James Version but not in modern English translations nor in the official Latin text (a revision of the Vulgate) of the Roman Catholic Church,[35] states: "For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one." However, this Comma Johanneum is not considered to be part of the genuine text.[36] It is commonly found in Latin manuscripts, but is absent from the Greek manuscripts, except for a few late examples, where the passage appears to have been back-translated from the Latin. Erasmus, the compiler of the Textus Receptus, on which the King James Version was based, noticed that the passage was not found in any of the Greek manuscripts at his disposal and refused to include it until presented with a manuscript containing it, while still suspecting, as is now agreed, that the phrase was a gloss.[37] Although the Latin Church Father, Saint Cyprian, alone among early writers, is thought to have referred to the passage,[38] it is now considered not to be part of the original text.

Jesus as God

God the Father (top), the Holy Spirit (represented by a dove), and child Jesus, painting by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo

As opposed to the Synoptic Gospels, the Gospel of John has been seen as aimed at emphasizing Jesus' divinity, presenting Jesus as the Logos, pre-existent and divine, from its first words, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."[John 1:1][39] John also portrays Jesus as the creator of the universe, such that "without him was not any thing made that was made."[John 1:3] Some render John 1:1 as "the Word was a god", "the word was godlike", "the word was divine", denying that the doctrine of the Trinity is supported by the verse.

The Gospel of John ends with Thomas' apparent confession of faith to Jesus, "My Lord and my God!"[John 20:28][23] There is no significant tendency among modern scholars to deny that John 1:1 and John 20:28 identify Jesus with God.[40]

Other passages of John's Gospel interpreted in this sense include, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.",[8:58] "I and the Father are one.",[10:30] "....the Father is in me and I am in the Father.",[10:38][41] and "....he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God."[John 5:18] John is also seen to identify Jesus as the Lord whom Isaiah saw,[John 12:34-45][Isa 6:1-10] while other texts[Heb 1:1-12] are also understood as referring to Jesus as God.[42][43][44]

There are also a few possible biblical supports for the Trinity found in the Synoptic Gospels. The Gospel of Matthew, for example, quotes Jesus as saying "all things have been handed over to me by my Father".[Mt 11:27] This is similar to John, who wrote that Jesus said "All that the Father has is mine".[John 16:15] These verses have been quoted to defend the omnipotence of Christ, having all power, as well as the omniscience of Christ, having all wisdom.

Expressions also in the Pauline epistles have been interpreted as attributing divinity to Jesus. They include: "For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him"[Colossians 1:16] and "For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form",[Colossians 2:9] and in Paul the Apostle's claim to have been "sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father".[Galatians 1:1][45]

In Daniel 7 the prophet records his vision of "one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven", who "was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him" (v. 14). Christians believe that worship is only properly given to God, and that considering other Bible passages this "son of man" can be identified as the second person of the Trinity. Parallels may be drawn between Daniel's vision and Jesus' words to the Jewish high priest that in the future those assembled would see "the son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven."[Mt 26:64-65] Jesus was immediately accused of blasphemy, as at other times when he had identified his unity with the Father.[John 10:33] Christians also believe that John saw the resurrected, gloried Jesus and described him as "One like the Son of Man."[Rev 1:13]

God in the person of the Son confronts Adam and Eve

Some believe the Trinity was also introduced in the Old Testament book of Isaiah written around 700 years before Jesus, copies of which were preserved from 300 years before Jesus in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Isaiah 9:6 prophesies "For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon his shoulder. And his name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Thus a son who will be born at a particular point in history who is called "Mighty God". Some non-Trinitarians argue that this passage would also imply that Jesus is the Father, the first person in the Trinity. However, Trinitarians contend that Jesus is the second person in the Trinity, and he is called "Everlasting Father" because of his role as Creator of men.

Another possible biblical demonstration of the deity of Jesus comes from the biblical scholar[46] Granville Sharp who noted the construction of a particular Greek idiom, which is now called Granville Sharp's rule.[47] According to the rule, when two nouns that are personal, singular, and not proper names are connected in a TSKS pattern (The—Substantive—Kai—Substantive, where 'kai' is Greek for 'and') then the two nouns refer to the same person.[48] Passages like Titus 2:13 and 2Peter 1:1 fit this pattern. Therefore, when Paul says:[Titus 2:13] "The great God and savior, Jesus Christ" he is grammatically identifying Jesus Christ as the great God. Proper nouns are not used in this phrase.[49] In his review of over 1,000 years of Greek literature, Christopher Wordsworth confirmed that early church Fathers had this same understanding of the text.[50]

An opposing view of the Granville Sharp rule, however, argues that in Matthew 21:12 Jesus ‘cast out all those that were selling and buying in the temple,’ (τοὺς πωλοῦντας καὶ ἀγοράζοντας). So too, in Mark 11:15 the two classes are made distinct by the insertion of τούς before ἀγοράζοντας. Because of this, they argue that no one can reasonably suppose that the same persons are here described as both selling and buying, yet they fit within the Granville Sharp rule's construction. Therefore, according to this view, there is biblical evidence to distinguish between "the great God" and "our Saviour, Jesus Christ" in Titus 2:13, and by extension, 2 Peter 1:1.[51] However, unlike 2 Peter 1:1 and Titus 2:13, Matthew 21:12 and Mark 11:15 do not fit Sharp's rule, since they use plural participles, not singular personal nouns.

Some have suggested that John presents a hierarchy when he quotes Jesus as saying, "The Father is greater than I",[14:28] a statement which was appealed to by non-trinitarian groups such as Arianism.[52][53] However, Church Fathers such as Augustine of Hippo argued this statement was to be understood as Jesus speaking in the form of a man.[54]

Others have suggested that passages in the Synoptic Gospels contradict the Trinity. For example, the Agnoetae sect argued that Jesus himself denied omniscience, when he said "but of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father".[Mark 13:32][Matthew 24:36] However, the Church Fathers reasoned that, in the Bible, "to know" can sometimes mean "to reveal". For example, Augustine of Hippo argued that when Deuteronomy 13:3 said "the LORD your God is testing you, to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart", "to know" here meant "to reveal".[55] So too, Mark 13:32 could be saying that the Father alone reveals that day, but Jesus himself could know the day as well. This is supported by passages that seem to argue that Jesus did know all things, such as "He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, "Do you love me?" and he said to him, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my sheep.""[John 21:17]

Holy Spirit as God

As the Arian controversy was dwindling down, the debate moved from the deity of Jesus Christ to the equality of the Holy Spirit with the Father and Son. On one hand, the Pneumatomachi sect declared that the Holy Spirit was an inferior person to the Father and Son. On the other hand, the Cappadocian Fathers argued that the Holy Spirit was an equal person to the Father and Son.

Although the main text used in defense of the deity of the Holy Spirit was Matthew 28:19, Cappadocian Fathers such as Basil the Great argued from other verses such as "But Peter said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God."[Acts 5:3-4][56]

Another passage the Cappadocian Fathers quoted from was "By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host."[Psalm 33:6] According to their understanding, because "breath" and "spirit" in Hebrew are both "רוּחַ" ("ruach"), Psalm 33:6 is revealing the roles of the Son and Holy Spirit as co-creators. And since, according to them,[56] because the holy God can only create holy beings such as the angels, the Son and Holy Spirit must be God.

Yet another argument from the Cappadocian Fathers to prove that the Holy Spirit is of the same nature as the Father and Son comes from "For who knows a person's thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God."[1Cor. 2:11] They reasoned that this passage proves that the Holy Spirit has the same relationship to God as the spirit within us has to us.[56]

The Cappadocian Fathers also quoted "Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you?"[1Cor. 3:16] and reasoned that it would be blasphemous for an inferior being to take up residence in a temple of God, thus proving that the Holy Spirit is equal with the Father and the Son.[57]

They also combined "the servant does not know what his master is doing"[John 15:15] with 1 Corinthians 2:11 in an attempt to show that the Holy Spirit is not the slave of God, and therefore his equal.[58]

The Pneumatomachi contradicted the Cappadocian Fathers by quoting "Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?",[Hebrews 1:14] in effect arguing that the Holy Spirit is no different than other created angelic spirits.[59] The Church Fathers disagreed, saying that the Holy Spirit is greater than the angels, since the Holy Spirit is the one who grants the foreknowledge for prophesy[1Cor. 12:8-10] so that the angels could announce events to come.[56]

Claims of Old Testament prefigurations

The Holy Trinity, c. 1300–1350. English or Spanish. Alabaster. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Genesis 18–19 have been interpreted by Christians as a Trinitarian text.[60] The narrative has the Lord appearing to Abraham, who was visited by three men.[Gen 18:1-2] Then in Genesis 19, "the two angels" visited Lot at Sodom. The interplay between Abraham on the one hand, and the Lord/three men/the two angels on the other was an intriguing text for those who believed in a single God in three persons. Justin Martyr, and John Calvin similarly, interpreted it such that Abraham was visited by God, who was accompanied by two angels.[61] Justin supposed that the god who visited Abraham was distinguishable from the god who remains in the heavens, but was nevertheless identified as the (monotheistic) god. Justin appropriated the god who visited Abraham to Jesus, the second person of the Trinity.

Augustine, in contrast, held that the three visitors to Abraham were the three persons of the Trinity.[61] He saw no indication that the visitors were unequal, as would be the case in Justin's reading. Then in Genesis 19, two of the visitors were addressed by Lot in the singular: "Lot said to them, 'Not so, my lord.'"[Gen 19:18 KJV][61] Augustine saw that Lot could address them as one because they had a single substance, despite the plurality of persons.[62] Some Christians see indications in the Old Testament of a plurality and unity in God, an idea that is rejected by Judaism.

Some Christians interpret the theophanies or appearances of the Angel of the Lord as revelations of a person distinct from God, who is nonetheless called God.[63] This interpretation is found in Christianity as early as Justin Martyr and Melito of Sardis, and reflects ideas that were already present in Philo.[64] The Old Testament theophanies were thus seen as Christophanies, each a "preincarnate appearance of the Messiah".[65]


The angel (messenger) of the Lord:

Possible references in the Deuterocanonical books

In Wisdom, Sirach, and Baruch, the personifications of wisdom have been seen in the Christian traditions as prefigures for Christ. The most explicit reference to the Trinity is in Wisdom of Solomon:

Who has learned your counsel, unless you have given wisdom and sent your holy spirit from on high? And thus the paths of those on earth were set right, and people were taught what pleases you, and were saved by wisdom


Pope Clement I prays to the Trinity, in a typical post-Renaissance depiction by Gianbattista Tiepolo.

Although there is much debate as to whether the beliefs of the Apostles were merely articulated and explained in the Trinitarian Creeds,[66] or were corrupted and replaced with new beliefs,[67][68] all scholars recognize that the Creeds themselves were created in reaction to disagreements over the nature of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. These controversies, however, were great and many, and took many centuries to be resolved.

Of these controversies, the most significant developments were articulated in the first four centuries by the Church Fathers[66] in reaction to Adoptionism, Sabellianism, and Arianism. Adoptionism was the belief that Jesus was an ordinary man, born of Joseph and Mary, who became the Christ and Son of God at his baptism. In 269, the Synods of Antioch condemned Paul of Samosata for his Adoptionist theology, and also condemned the term "homoousios" in the sense he used it.[69]

Sabellianism taught that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are aspects of how humanity has interacted with or experienced God. In the role of the Father, God is the provider and creator of all. In the role of the Son, God is manifested in the flesh as a human, in order to bring about the salvation of mankind. In the role of the Holy Spirit, God manifests himself from heaven through his actions on the earth and within the lives of Christians. This view was rejected as heresy by the Ecumenical Councils.[which?]

Arianism, which was coming into prominence during the 4th century along with Trinitarianism, taught that the Father came before the Son, and that the Son was a distinct being from the Holy Spirit. In 325, the Council of Nicaea adopted a term for the relationship between the Father and the Son that from then on was seen as the hallmark of orthodoxy; it declared that the Son is "of the same being" (ὁμοούσιος) as the Father. This was further developed into the formula "three persons, one being".

Saint Athanasius, who was a participant in the Council, stated that the bishops were forced to use this terminology, which is not found in Scripture, because the Biblical phrases that they would have preferred to use were claimed by the Arians to be capable of being interpreted in what the bishops considered to be a heretical sense.[70] They therefore "commandeered the non-scriptural[71] term homoousios ('of the same being') to safeguard the essential relation of the Son to the Father that had been denied by Arius."[72]

Moreover, the meanings of "ousia" and "hypostasis" overlapped then, so that the latter term for some meant essence and for others person. Athanasius of Alexandria (293–373) helped to clarify the terms.[73]

The Confession of the Council of Nicaea said little about the Holy Spirit.[74] The doctrine of the divinity and personality of the Holy Spirit was developed by Athanasius in the last decades of his life.[75] He defended and refined the Nicene formula.[74] 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 had reached substantially its current form.[74]

The Ante-Nicene Fathers, although likely foreign to the specifics of Trinitarian theology because they were not defined until the 4th century, nevertheless affirmed Christ's deity and referenced "Father, Son and Holy Spirit". Trinitarians view these as elements of the codified doctrine.[76]


Baptism as the beginning lesson

Baptism of Christ, by Piero della Francesca, 15th century

Baptism is generally conferred with the Trinitarian formula, "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."[Mt 28:19] Trinitarians identify this name with the Christian faith into which baptism is an initiation, as seen for example in the statement of Basil the Great (330–379): "We are bound to be baptized in the terms we have received, and to profess faith in the terms in which we have been baptized." "This is the Faith of our baptism", the First Council of Constantinople also says (382), "that teaches us to believe in the Name of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. According to this Faith there is one Godhead, Power, and Being of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."

Matthew 28:19 may be taken to indicate that baptism was associated with this formula from the earliest decades of the Church's existence.

Some groups, such as Oneness Pentecostals, demur from the Trinitarian view on baptism. For them, the omission of the formula in Acts outweighs all other considerations, and is a liturgical guide for their own practice. For this reason, they often focus on the baptisms in Acts, citing many authoritative theological works. For example, Kittel is cited where he is speaking of the phrase "in the name" (Greek: εἰς τὸ ὄνομα) as used in the baptisms recorded in Acts:

The distinctive feature of Christian baptism is that it is administered in Christ (εἰς Χριστόν), or in the name of Christ (εἰς τὸ ὄνομα Χριστοῦ). (Gerhard Kittel, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1977), 1:539.)
The formula (εἰς τὸ ὄνομα) seems to have been a tech. term in Hellenistic commerce ("to the account"). In both cases the use of the phrase is understandable, since the account bears the name of the one who owns it, and in baptism the name of Christ is pronounced, invoked and confessed by the one who baptises or the one baptised[Acts 22:16] or both. (Kittel, 1:540.)

Those who place great emphasis on the baptisms in Acts often likewise question the authenticity of Matthew 28:19 in its present form. A. Ploughman, apparently following F. C. Conybeare, has questioned the authenticity of Matthew 28:19, but most scholars of New Testament textual criticism accept the authenticity of the passage, since there are no variant manuscripts regarding the formula, and the extant form of the passage is attested in the Didache[77] and other patristic works of the 1st and 2nd centuries: Ignatius,[78] Tertullian,[79] Hippolytus,[80] Cyprian,[81] and Gregory Thaumaturgus.[82] The Acts of the Apostles only mentions believers being baptized "in the name of Jesus Christ"[Acts 2:38] [10:48] and "in the name of the Lord Jesus."[8:16] [19:5] There are no biblical references to baptism in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit outside of Matthew 28:19, nor references, biblical or patristic, to baptism in the name of (the Lord) Jesus (Christ) outside the Acts of the Apostles.[83]

Commenting on Matthew 28:19, Gerhard Kittel states:

This threefold relation [of Father, Son and Spirit] soon found fixed expression in the triadic formulae in 2 Cor. 13:14 and in 1 Cor. 12:4-6. The form is first found in the baptismal formula in Matthew 28:19; Did., 7. 1 and 3....[I]t is self-evident that Father, Son and Spirit are here linked in an indissoluble threefold relationship.[84]

In the synoptic Gospels the baptism of Jesus is often interpreted as a manifestation of all three persons of the Trinity: "And when Jesus was baptized, he went up immediately from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened and he saw the spirit of God descending like a dove, and alighting on him; and lo, a voice from heaven, saying, 'This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.'"[Mt 3:16–17]

One God

Christianity, having emerged from Judaism, is a monotheistic religion. Never in the New Testament does the trinitarian concept become a "tritheism" (three Gods) nor even two.[30] God is one, and that the Godhead is a single being is strongly declared in the Bible:

  • The Shema of the Hebrew Scriptures: "Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God, the LORD is one."[Deut 6:4]
  • The first of the Ten Commandments—"Thou shalt have no other gods before me"[5:7].
  • and "Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel and his redeemer the LORD of hosts: I am the first and I am the last; and beside me there is no God."[Isa 44:6]
  • In the New Testament: "The Lord our God is one."[Mk 12:29]

In the Trinitarian view, the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost share the one essence, substance or being. The central and crucial affirmation of Christian faith is that there is one savior, God, and one salvation, manifest in Jesus Christ, to which there is access only because of the Holy Spirit. The God of the Old Testament is still the same as the God of the New. In Christianity, statements about a solitary God are intended to distinguish the Hebraic understanding from the polytheistic view, which see divine power as shared by several beings, beings which can and do disagree and have conflicts with each other.

God in three persons

According to the Trinity doctrine, God exists as three persons, or hypostases, but is one being, that is, has but a single divine nature.[85] Chalcedonians—Roman Catholics, Orthodox Christians, and Protestants—hold that, in addition, the second person of the Trinity—God the Son, Jesus—assumed human nature, so that he has two natures (and hence two wills), and is really and fully both true God and true human. In the Oriental Orthodox theology, the Chalcedonian formulation is rejected in favor of the position that the union of the two natures, though unconfused, births a third nature: redeemed humanity, the new creation.

The members of the Trinity are said to be co-equal and co-eternal, one in essence, nature, power, action, and will. As stated in the Athanasian Creed, the Father is uncreated, the Son is uncreated, and the Holy Spirit is uncreated, and all three are eternal with no beginning.[86] The Roman Catholic Church teaches that, in the sense of the Latin verb procedere (which does not have to indicate ultimate origin and is therefore compatible with proceeding through), but not in that of the Greek verb ἐκπορεύεσθαι (which implies ultimate origin),[87] the Spirit "proceeds" from the Father and the Son (see Filioque), and the Eastern Orthodox Church, which teaches that the Spirit "proceeds" from the Father alone, has made no statement on the claim of a difference in meaning between the two words, one Greek and one Latin, both of which are translated as "proceeds". There is no dispute on the statement in the Nicene Creed that the Holy Spirit is worshipped together with the Father and the Son.

It has been stated that because three persons exist in God as one unity,[88] "The Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit" are not three different names for different parts of God but one name for God,[89] because the Father can not be divided from the Son or the Holy Spirit from the Son. God has always loved, and there has always existed perfectly harmonious communion between the three persons of the Trinity. One consequence of this teaching is that God could not have created man to have someone to talk to or to love: God "already" enjoyed personal communion; being perfect, he did not create man because of a lack or inadequacy he had. Another consequence, according to Rev. Fr. Thomas Hopko, an Eastern Orthodox theologian, is that if God were not a Trinity, he could not have loved prior to creating other beings on whom to bestow his love. Thus God says, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them."[Gen 1:26-27] For Trinitarians, emphasis in Genesis 1:26 is on the plurality in the Deity, and in 1:27 on the unity of the divine Essence. A possible interpretation of Genesis 1:26 is that God's relationships in the Trinity are mirrored in man by the ideal relationship between husband and wife, two persons becoming one flesh, as described in Eve's creation later in the next chapter.[2:22]

Mutually indwelling

A useful explanation of the relationship of the distinct divine persons is called "perichoresis", from Greek going around, envelopment. This concept refers for its basis to John 14–17, where Jesus is instructing the disciples concerning the meaning of his departure. His going to the Father, he says, is for their sake; so that he might come to them when the "other comforter" is given to them. Then, he says, his disciples will dwell in him, as he dwells in the Father, and the Father dwells in him, and the Father will dwell in them. This is so, according to the theory of perichoresis, because the persons of the Trinity "reciprocally contain one another, so that one permanently envelopes and is permanently enveloped by, the other whom he yet envelopes". (Hilary of Poitiers, Concerning the Trinity 3:1).[90]

This co-indwelling may also be helpful in illustrating the Trinitarian conception of salvation. The first doctrinal benefit is that it effectively excludes the idea that God has parts. Trinitarians assert that God is a simple, not an aggregate, being. The second doctrinal benefit is that it harmonizes well with the doctrine that the Christian's union with the Son in his humanity brings him into union with one who contains in himself, in St. Paul's words, "all the fullness of deity" and not a part. (See also: Theosis). Perichoresis provides an intuitive figure of what this might mean. The Son, the eternal Word, is from all eternity the dwelling place of God; he is the "Father's house", just as the Son dwells in the Father and the Spirit; so that, when the Spirit is "given", then it happens as Jesus said, "I will not leave you as orphans; for I will come to you."[John 14:18]

Some forms of human union are considered to be not identical but analogous to the Trinitarian concept, as found for example in Jesus' words about marriage: "For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh."[Mark 10:7–8] According to the words of Jesus, married persons are in some sense no longer two, but joined into one. Therefore, Orthodox theologians also see the marriage relationship as an image, or "icon" of the Trinity, relationships of communion in which, in the words of St. Paul, participants are "members one of another". As with marriage, the unity of the church with Christ is similarly considered in some sense analogous to the unity of the Trinity, following the prayer of Jesus to the Father, for the church, that "they may be one, even as we are one".[John 17:22]

Eternal generation and procession

Trinitarianism affirms that the Son is "begotten" (or "generated") of the Father and that the Spirit "proceeds" from the Father, but the Father is "neither begotten nor proceeds". The argument over whether the Spirit proceeds from the Father alone, or from the Father and the Son, was one of the catalysts of the Great Schism, in this case concerning the Western addition of the Filioque clause to the Nicene Creed.

This language is often considered difficult because, if used regarding humans or other created things, it would imply time and change; when used here, no beginning, change in being, or process within time is intended and is excluded. The Son is generated ("born" or "begotten"), and the Spirit proceeds, eternally. Augustine of Hippo explains, "Thy years are one day, and Thy day is not daily, but today; because Thy today yields not to tomorrow, for neither does it follow yesterday. Thy today is eternity; therefore Thou begat the Co-eternal, to whom Thou saidst, 'This day have I begotten Thee."[Ps 2:7]

Son begotten, not created

Because the Son is begotten, not made, the substance of his person is that of the deity. The creation is brought into being through the Son, but the Son himself is not part of it except through his incarnation.

The church fathers used several analogies to express this thought. St. Irenaeus of Lyons was the final major theologian of the 2nd century. He writes "the Father is God, and the Son is God, for whatever is begotten of God is God." (Compare Spinoza's philosophy of God)

Extending the analogy, it might be said, similarly, that whatever is generated (procreated) of humans is human. Thus, given that humanity is, in the words of the Bible, "created in the image and likeness of God", an analogy can be drawn between the Divine Essence and human nature, between the Divine Persons and human persons. However, given the fall, this analogy is far from perfect, even though, like the Divine Persons, human persons are characterized by being "loci of relationship". For Trinitarian Christians, this analogy is important with regard to the Church, which St. Paul calls "the body of Christ" and whose members are, because they are "members of Christ", also "members one of another".

However, an attempt to explain the mystery to some extent must break down, and has limited usefulness, being designed, not so much to fully explain the Trinity, but to point to the experience of communion with the Triune God within the Church as the Body of Christ. The difference between those who believe in the Trinity and those who do not, is not an issue of understanding the mystery. The difference is primarily one of belief concerning the personal identity of Christ. It is a difference in conception of the salvation connected with Christ that drives all reactions, either favorable or unfavorable, to the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. As it is, the doctrine of the Trinity is directly tied up with Christology.

Economic and ontological Trinity

Depiction of Trinity from Saint Denis Basilica in Paris.
  • Economic Trinity: This refers to the acts of the triune God with respect to the creation, history, salvation, the formation of the Church, the daily lives of believers, etc. and describes how the Trinity operates within history in terms of the roles or functions performed by each Person of the Trinity—God's relationship with creation.
  • Ontological (or essential or immanent) Trinity: This speaks of the interior life of the Trinity[John 1:1–2]—the reciprocal relationships of Father, Son and Spirit to each other without reference to God's relationship with creation.

Or more simply—the ontological Trinity (who God is) and the economic Trinity (what God does). Most Christians believe the economic reflects and reveals the ontological. Catholic theologian Karl Rahner went so far as to say "The 'economic' Trinity is the 'immanent' Trinity, and vice versa."[91]

The ancient Nicene theologians argued that everything the Trinity does is done by Father, Son, and Spirit working together with one will. The three persons of the Trinity always work inseparably, for their work is always the work of the one God. Because of this unity of will, the Trinity cannot involve the eternal subordination of the Son to the Father. Eternal subordination can only exist if the Son's will is at least conceivably different from the Father's. But Nicene orthodoxy says it is not. The Son's will cannot be different from the Father's because it is the Father's. They have but one will as they have but one being. Otherwise they would not be one God. If there were relations of command and obedience between the Father and the Son, there would be no Trinity at all but rather three gods.[92] On this point St. Basil observes "When then He says, 'I have not spoken of myself,' and again, 'As the Father said unto me, so I speak,' and 'The word which ye hear is not mine, but [the Father's] which sent me,' and in another place, 'As the Father gave me commandment, even so I do,' it is not because He lacks deliberate purpose or power of initiation, nor yet because He has to wait for the preconcerted key-note, that he employs language of this kind. His object is to make it plain that His own will is connected in indissoluble union with the Father. Do not then let us understand by what is called a 'commandment' a peremptory mandate delivered by organs of speech, and giving orders to the Son, as to a subordinate, concerning what He ought to do. Let us rather, in a sense befitting the Godhead, perceive a transmission of will, like the reflexion of an object in a mirror, passing without note of time from Father to Son.."[93]

In explaining why the Bible speaks of the Son as being subordinate to the Father, the great theologian Athanasius argued that scripture gives a "double account" of the son of God—one of his temporal and voluntary subordination in the incarnation, and the other of his eternal divine status.[94] For Athanasius, the Son is eternally one in being with the Father, temporally and voluntarily subordinate in his incarnate ministry. Such human traits, he argued, were not to be read back into the eternal Trinity.

Like Athanasius, the Cappadocian Fathers also insisted there was no economic inequality present within the Trinity. As Basil wrote: "We perceive the operation of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to be one and the same, in no respect showing differences or variation; from this identity of operation we necessarily infer the unity of nature."[95]

Augustine also rejected an economic hierarchy within the Trinity. He claimed that the three persons of the Trinity "share the inseparable equality one substance present in divine unity".[96] Because the three persons are one in their inner life, this means that for Augustine their works in the world are one. For this reason, it is an impossibility for Augustine to speak of the Father commanding and the Son obeying as if there could be a conflict of wills within the eternal Trinity.

John Calvin also spoke at length about the doctrine of the Trinity. Like Athanasius and Augustine before him, he concluded that Philippians 2:4-11 prescribed how scripture was to be read correctly. For him the Son's obedience is limited to the incarnation and is indicative of his true humanity assumed for human salvation.[97]

Much of this work is summed up in the Athanasian Creed. This creed stresses the unity of the Trinity and the equality of the persons. It ascribes equal divinity, majesty, and authority to all three persons. All three are said to be "almighty" and "Lord" (no subordination in authority; "none is before or after another" (no hierarchical ordering); and "none is greater, or less than another" (no subordination in being or nature). Thus, since the divine persons of the Trinity act with one will, there is no possibility of hierarchy-inequality in the Trinity.

Since the 1980s, some evangelical theologians have come to the conclusion that the members of the Trinity may be economically unequal while remaining ontologically equal. This theory was put forward by George W. Knight III in his 1977 book The New Testament Teaching on the Role Relationship of Men and Women, states that the Son of God is eternally subordinated in authority to God the Father.[98] This conclusion was used to support the main thesis of his book: that women are permanently subordinated in authority to their husbands in the home and to male leaders in the church, despite being ontologically equal. Subscribers to this theory insist that the Father has the role of giving commands and the Son has the role of obeying them.

Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Anglican, and Protestant distinctions

The Western (Roman Catholic) tradition is more prone to make positive statements concerning the relationship of persons in the Trinity. Explanations of the Trinity are not the same thing as the doctrine; nevertheless, the Augustinian West is inclined to think in philosophical terms concerning the rationality of God's being, and is prone on this basis to be more open than the East to seek philosophical formulations which make the doctrine more intelligible, while recognizing that these formulations are only analogies.

Eastern Christianity, for its part, correlates ecclesiology and Trinitarian doctrine, and seeks to understand the doctrine of the Trinity via the experience of the Church, which it understands to be "an icon of the Trinity". Therefore, when St. Paul writes concerning Christians that all are "members one of another", Eastern Christians in turn understand this as also applying to the Divine Persons.

The principal disagreement between Western and Eastern Christianity on the Trinity has been the relationship of the Holy Spirit with the other two hypostases. The original credal formulation of the Council of Constantinople was that the Holy Spirit proceeds "from the Father". While this phrase is still used unaltered both in the Eastern Churches, including the Eastern Catholic Churches, and, when the Nicene Creed is recited in Greek, in the Latin Church, it became customary in the Latin-speaking Church, beginning with the provincial Third Council of Toledo in 589, to add "and the Son" (Latin Filioque). Although this insertion into the Creed was explicitly vetoed by Pope Leo III,[99] it was finally used in a Papal Mass by Pope Benedict VIII in 1014, thus completing its spread throughout Western Christianity. The Eastern Orthodox Churches object to it on ecclesiological and theological grounds, holding that "from the Father" means "from the Father alone", while in the West belief that the Holy Spirit "proceeds", in the Latin (and English) meaning of this word, "from the Father and the Son" had already been dogmatically declared to be orthodox faith in 447 by Pope Leo I, the Pope whose Tome was approved at the Council of Chalcedon,[100] and Pope Leo III, who opposed insertion of the phrase into the Nicene Creed, "affirmed the orthodoxy of the term Filioque, and approved its use in catechesis and personal professions of faith".[99]

The 1978 Anglican Lambeth Conference requested:

that all member Churches of the Anglican Communion should consider omitting the Filioque from the Nicene Creed, and that the Anglican-Orthodox Joint Doctrinal Commission through the Anglican Consultative Council should assist them in presenting the theological issues to their appropriate synodical bodies and should be responsible for any necessary consultation with other Churches of the Western tradition.[101]

None of the member Churches has implemented this request; but the Church of England, while keeping the phrase in the Creed recited in its own services, presents in its Common Worship series of service books a text of the creed without it for use "on suitable ecumenical occasions".[102]

Most Protestant groups that use the creed also include the Filioque clause. However, the issue is usually not controversial among them because their conception is often less exact than is discussed above (exceptions being the Presbyterian Westminster Confession 2:3, the London Baptist Confession 2:3, and the Lutheran Augsburg Confession 1:1–6, which specifically address those issues). The clause is often understood by Protestants to mean that the Spirit is sent from the Father, by the Son,[citation needed] a conception which is not controversial in either Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy. A representative view of Protestant Trinitarian theology is more difficult to provide, given the diverse and decentralized nature of the various Protestant churches.

Questions of logical coherency

In contrast to Joachim of Fiore's historicization of the Trinity, there have been recent philosophical attempts to defend the logical coherency of Trinity by men such as Peter Geach. Regarding the formulation suggested by Geach, not all philosophers would agree with its logical coherency. Geach suggested that "a coherent statement of the doctrine is possible on the assumption that identity is "always relative to a sortal term".[103]

The Canadian philosopher-theologian, Bernard Lonergan, has demonstrated by analogy with the operations of the human subject (the psychological analogy) the logical coherency of the Trinity. It is chiefly in his work "The Triune God: Systematics" that he draws on his abstract phenomenology to show this logical inner coherency in the Trinity doctrine. He sees himself as doing nothing more than standing in the tradition of Augustine and Aquinas on this issue and not based on the Bible.

Most Christians, and probably the wide ecumenical consensus, first and foremost uphold the belief that God is One. "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one" (Deuteronomy 6:4). But how to reconcile the Trinity with a monotheistic faith? The wider ecumenical consensus has viewed God's unity "not as a unity of separable parts, but of distinguishable persons."[104] The Trinity is formed by three distinct persons, yet of one and the same essence. Three persons, one God. To distinguish in what way God is One, and in what way God is Three, helps remove the logical contradiction. This has been upheld as the correct interpretation of the Apostolic teachings since the writings of Athanasius and the Council of Nicaea in AD 325.


Holy Trinity, fresco by Luca Rossetti da Orta, 1738-9 (St. Gaudenzio Church at Ivrea).

The Trinity is most commonly seen in Christian art with the Spirit represented by a dove, as specified in the Gospel accounts of the Baptism of Christ; it is nearly always shown with wings outspread. However depictions using three human figures appear occasionally in most periods of art.[105]

The Father and the Son are usually differentiated by age, and later by dress, but this too is not always the case. The usual depiction of the Father as an older man with a white beard may derive from the biblical Ancient of Days, which is often cited in defense of this sometimes controversial representation. However, in Eastern Orthodoxy the Ancient of Days is usually understood to be God the Son, not God the Father (see below)—early Byzantine images show Christ as the Ancient of Days,[106] but this iconography became rare. When the Father is depicted in art, he is sometimes shown with a halo shaped like an equilateral triangle, instead of a circle. The Son is often shown at the Father's right hand.[Acts 7:56] He may be represented by a symbol—typically the Lamb or a cross—or on a crucifix, so that the Father is the only human figure shown at full size. In early medieval art, the Father may be represented by a hand appearing from a cloud in a blessing gesture, for example in scenes of the Baptism of Christ. Later, in the West, the Throne of Mercy (or "Throne of Grace") became a common depiction. In this style, the Father (sometimes seated on a throne) is shown supporting either a crucifix[107] or, later, a slumped crucified Son, similar to the Pietà (this type is distinguished in German as the Not Gottes)[108] in his outstretched arms, whilst the Dove hovers above or in between them. This subject continued to be popular until the 18th century at least.

By the end of the 15th century, larger representations, other than the Throne of Mercy, became effectively standardised, showing an older figure in plain robes for the Father, Christ with his torso partly bare to display the wounds of his Passion, and the dove above or around them. In earlier representations both Father, especially, and Son often wear elaborate robes and crowns. Sometimes the Father alone wears a crown, or even a papal tiara.

Eastern Orthodox tradition

Old Testament Trinity icon by Andrey Rublev, c. 1400 (Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow)

Direct representations of the Trinity are much rarer in Eastern Orthodox art of any period—reservations about depicting the Father remain fairly strong, as they were in the West until the high Middle Ages. The Second Council of Nicea in 787 confirmed that the depiction of Christ was allowed because he became man; the situation regarding the Father was less clear. The usual Orthodox representation of the Trinity was through the "Old Testament Trinity" of the three angels visiting Abraham—said in the text to be "the Lord"[Genesis 18:1-15]. However scholars generally agree that the direct representation of the Trinity began in Greek works from the 11th century onwards, where Christ is shown as an infant sitting on the Father's lap, with the Dove of the Holy Spirit also present. Such depictions spread to the West and became the standard type there, though with an adult Christ, as described above. This type later spread back to the Orthodox world where post-Byzantine representations similar to those in the West are not uncommon outside Russia.[109] The subject long remained sensitive, and the Russian Orthodox Church at the Great Synod of Moscow in 1667 finally forbade depictions of the Father in human form. The canon is quoted in full here because it explains the Russian Orthodox theology on the subject:

Chapter 2, §44: It is most absurd and improper to depict in icons the Lord Sabaoth (that is to say, God the Father) with a grey beard and the Only-Begotten Son in His bosom with a dove between them, because no-one has seen the Father according to His Divinity, and the Father has no flesh, nor was the Son born in the flesh from the Father before the ages. And though David the prophet says, "From the womb before the morning star have I begotten Thee"[Psalm 109:3], that birth was not fleshly, but unspeakable and incomprehensible. For Christ Himself says in the holy Gospel, "No man hath seen the Father, save the Son".cf.[John 6:46] And Isaiah the prophet says in his fortieth chapter: "To whom have ye likened the Lord? and with what likeness have ye made a similitude of Him? Has not the artificier of wood made an image, or the goldsmiths, having melted gold, gilt it over, and made it a similitude?"[Isa 40:18-19] In like manner the Apostle Paul says in Acts[Acts 17:29] "Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold or silver or stone, graven by art of man's imagination." And John Damascene says: "But furthermore, who can make a similitude of the invisible, incorporeal, uncircumscribed and undepictable God? It is, then, uttermost insanity and impiety to give a form to the Godhead" (Orthodox Faith, 4:16). In like manner St. Gregory the Dialogist prohibits this. For this reason we should only form an understanding in the mind of Sabaoth, which is the Godhead, and of that birth before the ages of the Only-Begotten-Son from the Father, but we should never, in any wise depict these in icons, for this, indeed, is impossible. And the Holy Spirit is not in essence a dove, but in essence he is God, and "No man hath seen God", as John the Theologian and Evangelist bears witness[John 1:18] and this is so even though, at the Jordan at Christ's holy Baptism the Holy Spirit appeared in the likeness of a dove. For this reason, it is fitting on this occasion only to depict the Holy Spirit in the likeness of a dove. But in any other place those who have intelligence will not depict the Holy Spirit in the likeness of a dove. For on Mount Tabor, He appeared as a cloud and, at another time, in other ways. Furthermore, Sabaoth is the name not only of the Father, but of the Holy Trinity. According to Dionysios the Areopagite, Lord Sabaoth, translated from the Jewish tongue, means "Lord of Hosts". This Lord of Hosts is the Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And although Daniel the prophet says that he beheld the Ancient of Days sitting on a throne, this should not be understood to refer to the Father, but to the Son, Who at His second coming will judge every nation at the dreadful Judgment.[110]

Oriental Orthodox traditions

The Coptic Orthodox Church never depicts God the Father in art although he may be identified by an area of brightness within art such as the heavenly glow at the top of some icons of the baptism of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Syrian, Armenian, Indian and British Orthodox Churches appear to follow the same practice[citation needed].

In contrast, the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church has many ancient icons depicting the Holy Trinity as three distinct Persons.[111][112] These icons often depict all Three Persons sitting upon a single throne to signify unity. The Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church follows the same practice.


Trefoil and triangle interlaced.

Only a few of the standard scenes in Christian art normally included a representation of the Trinity. The accounts in the Gospels of the Baptism of Christ were considered to show all three persons as present with a separate role. Sometimes the other two persons are shown at the top of a crucifixion. The Coronation of the Virgin, a popular subject in the West, often included the whole Trinity. But many subjects, such as Christ in Majesty or the Last Judgement, which might be thought to require depiction of the deity in the most amplified form, only show Christ. There is a rare subject where the persons of the Trinity make the decision to incarnate Christ, or God sending out the Son. Even more rarely, the Angel of the Annunciation is shown being given the mission.[113]

Less common types of depiction

Especially in the 15th century, and in the less public form of illuminated manuscripts, there was experimentation with many solutions to the issues of depicting the three persons of the Trinity. The depiction of the Trinity as three identical persons is rare, because each Person of the Trinity is considered to have distinct attributes. Nonetheless, the earliest known depiction of God the Father as a human figure, on the 4th century Dogmatic Sarcophagus, shows the Trinity as three similar bearded men creating Eve from Adam, probably with the intention of affirming the consubstantiality recently made dogma in the Nicene Creed. There are many similar sarcophagi, and occasional images at intervals until a revival of the iconography in the 15th century.[114] Even rarer is the depiction of the Trinity as a single anthropoid figure with three faces (Latin "Vultus Trifrons"), because the Trinity is defined as three persons in one Godhead, not one Person with three attributes (this would imply Modalism, which is defined as heresy in traditional Christian orthodoxy). Such "Cerberus" depictions of the Trinity as three faces on one head were mainly made among Catholics during the 15th to 17th centuries, but were condemned after the Catholic Council of Trent, and again by Pope Urban VIII in 1628,[115] and many existing images were destroyed.

The Trinity may also be represented abstractly by symbols, such as the triangle (or three triangles joined together), trefoil or the triquetra—or a combination of these. Sometimes a halo is incorporated into these symbols. The use of such symbols are often found not only in painting but also in needlework on tapestries, vestments and antependia, in metalwork and in architectural details.


Different depictions

Four 15th century depictions of the Coronation of the Virgin show the main ways of depicting the persons of the Trinity.

Depictions using two different human figures and a dove

Other depictions


The Catholic nun Anne Catherine Emmerich said that as a child she had had visions, in which she had seen the core of the Holy Trinity in the form of three concentric interpenetrating spheres - the biggest but less lit sphere represented the Father core, the medium sphere the Son core, and the smallest and brightest sphere as the Holy Spirit.


The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints affirms that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Holy Ghost) are three individual members of a heavenly council, completely united in purpose—each member of the Godhead being a distinct being of physical form (God the Father, Jesus Christ) or spiritual form (the Holy Ghost).[116] Both leaders and scriptural texts often refer to the council as the Godhead (a term used by the Apostle Paul in Acts 17:29, Romans 1:20, and Colossians 2:9), distinguishing between this conception and the traditional Trinity. However, Daniel C. Peterson of Brigham Young University states that "uniquely Mormon scriptural texts assert the unity of Father, Son and Holy Ghost at least as strongly as the Bible does (John 17:11, 20-21). An April 1830 revelation to Joseph Smith, for instance, affirms that they 'are one God, infinite and eternal, without end' (Doctrine and Covenants 20:28)."[117]

Non-orthodox views of the Christian trinitarian God have also been suggested by process theologians like Lewis S. Ford, who endorse the entitative view of God as timeless and eternal concrescence, but interpret the Whiteheadian natures of God (primordial nature, consequent nature, and superjective nature) in a trinitarian way. Other process theologians like Joseph A. Bracken consider the three divines persons, each understood in the Neo-Whiteheadian societal view of God sensu Charles Hartshorne and David Ray Griffin, as constituting a primordial field of divine activity.


Some Christian traditions either reject the doctrine of the Trinity or consider it unimportant. Persons and groups espousing this position generally do not refer to themselves as "Nontrinitarians". They can vary in both their reasons for rejecting traditional teaching on the Trinity, and in the way they describe God.



Since Trinitarianism is central to so much of Catholic and Orthodox church doctrine, Christian nontrinitarians were mostly groups that existed before the Nicene Creed was codified in 325 or are groups that developed after the Protestant Reformation, when many church doctrines came into question.[118]

In the early centuries of Christian history Adoptionists, Arians, Ebionites, some Gnostics, Marcionites, and others held nontrinitarian beliefs. The Council of Nicaea professed the divinity of Jesus, and the Council of Chalcedon made a declaration on the issue of the relationship between Jesus' divine and human natures, against Monophysitism ("one nature only"), a belief that did not deny his divinity. Miaphysitism ("one nature") and monothelitism ("one will") were other attempts to explain this relationship, while upholding Trinitarianism.

During more than a thousand years of Trinitarian orthodoxy, formal nontrinitarianism, i.e., a doctrine held by a church, group, or movement, was rare, existing, for example, as a belief among the Cathars, a Christian dualist heresy in W. Europe in the 13th–14th centuries.[119] The Cathars were a serious threat to the authority of the Catholic Church especially in southern France Albigenses and northern Italy, until they were suppressed.[120] They were forced into secrecy by a war between the nobles of the north and south of France, the northern nobles were supported by a crusade authorized by the Catholic Church.[121]

The Protestant Reformation of the 16th century also brought tradition into question. At first, nontrinitarians were executed (such as Servetus), or forced to keep their beliefs secret (such as Isaac Newton). The eventual establishment of religious freedom, however, allowed nontrinitarians to more easily preach their beliefs, and the 19th century saw the establishment of several nontrinitarian groups in North America and elsewhere. These include Christadelphians, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Unitarians. Some Messianic groups are also nontrinitarian. Servetus heavily influenced the theology of Emanuel Swedenborg; the church founded on his writings is a small but influential nontrinitarian movement. Some groups espousing Binitarianism such as the Living Church of God claim that Binitarianism was the majority view of those that professed Christ in the 2nd century.

20th century nontrinitarian movements include Iglesia ni Cristo, Most Holy Church of God in Christ Jesus, and the Unification Church. Nontrinitarian groups differ from one another in their views of Jesus Christ, depicting him variously as a divine being second only to God the Father (e.g., Jehovah's Witnesses), as Yahweh of the Old Testament in human form (Modalism), as God (but not eternally God), as Son of God but inferior to the Father (versus co-equal), as a prophet, or simply as a holy man.


"Origen introduced the phrase ‘the Son's eternal generation’"-Robert Isaac Wilberforce[122]

Modalism teaches that the Heavenly Father, Resurrected Son and Holy Spirit identified by the Trinity Doctrine are different modes or aspects of the One God, as perceived by the believer, rather than three coeternal persons in God Himself. In passages of scripture such as Matthew 3:16-17 where the Son, Father, and Holy Spirit are separated in the text, they view this phenomenon as confirming God's omnipresence, and His ability to manifest himself as he pleases. Oneness Pentecostals, other Oneness adherents,[123][124] and Modalists dispute the traditional Trinitarian doctrine, while affirming the Christian doctrine of God taking on flesh as Jesus Christ. Like Trinitarians, Oneness adherents believe that Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man. However, whereas Trinitarians believe that "God the Son", the eternal second person of the Trinity, became man, Oneness adherents hold that the one and only true God—who manifests himself in any way he chooses, including as Father, Son and Holy Spirit—became man. Oneness Pentecostals and other modalists are regarded by Catholic, Orthodox, and some other mainstream Christians as heretical for rejecting the Trinity Doctrine, which they regard as equivalent to Unitarianism. Modalists differentiate themselves from Unitarians by affirming Christ's Deity.[125] Oneness teaches that there is only one being, revealing himself in different ways.[126] Modalists cite passages in the New Testament that refer to God in the singular, and note the lack of the word "Trinity" in any canonical scripture.[122] They claim that Colossians 1:15-20 refers to Christ's relationship with the Father in a similar sense:

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by (that is, by means of; or in)[127] him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities; all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.[128]

They also cite Christ's response to Philip's query on who the Father was in John 14:10:

Jesus answered: "Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'?

A notable modern adherent of Modalism is T.D. Jakes[129]

Baptismal formula

When criticized by Trinitarian believers who cite the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19 as being the biblical affirmation of "in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit" baptismal formula, Oneness adherents point to the singular sense of that phrase,[130] and argue that if the passage was really supporting what the Trinitarians propose, it would have said the "Names" in the plural instead of "Name".[130] Oneness Scholars then state that the passage is referring to The Name, in other words, Jesus,[130] and they point to passages like Acts 2:38 KJV as being the correct baptismal formula.[130] Oneness believers view "Father", "Son" and "Holy Spirit" as titles or forms, reflecting different manifestations of the one true God.[130] Apostolic Christians also point out that there is no passage that appears to confirm Matthew 28:19 as being the correct baptismal formula (going against the scriptural requirement of "two witnesses" to establish a verdict),[131] while all the other passages in the Gospels and Acts point to "in the Name of Jesus" as the correct form.[131] They also state that Jesus was not referencing Water Baptism, but the long term "baptism in thought, word, and deed" (2 Corinthians 10:5 and Romans 15:18 NIV) that all believers undergo as they mature in the Word.[131]


Unitarianism is a form of Christian theology holding that God is only one person, in contrast to the doctrine of the Trinity (God as three persons in one), and that God is a separate being from Jesus Christ.[132] It is a specific type of nontrinitarian theology, and resembles strictly monotheistic conceptions of God upheld in Judaism and Islam.

Some confusion has resulted because the term "unitarianism" (uncapitalized) has sometimes been used informally to describe any Christology (i.e. understanding of Jesus Christ) that denies the Trinity or believes that only the Father of Jesus (and not Jesus himself) is God. Mere denial of the Trinity, however, is more commonly called nontrinitarianism. Recently some religious groups have adopted the term "biblical unitarianism" to describe their theology, but they hold to a conservative form of nontrinitarianism, which rejects many of the teachings of liberal Unitarianism.[133]

So, too, Unitarianism does not accept the Godhood of Jesus, and therefore does not include Modalist belief systems which do—for example, Oneness Pentecostalism, United Pentecostal Church International and the True Jesus Church—that maintain that Jesus is God as a single person.


George Johnson, a proponent of Binitarianism, argues that Jesus is the God of the Old Testament, distinct from the God who is called the Ancient of Days in Daniel 7:13, and that the Holy Spirit is not a person.[134]


Zia H. Shah, a Muslim, interprets the Christian doctrine of the Trinity as saying that "the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three complete and separate Gods and are yet one at the same time", a thought that he describes as absurd and incompatible with monotheism.[135] Al-Quran says: Surely, disbelievers are those who said: "Allah is the third of the three (in a Trinity)." But there is no Allah (god) (none who has the right to be worshipped) but One Allah (God -Allah). And if they cease not from what they say, verily, a painful torment will befall on the disbelievers among them.[136] [137]

One of the strongest rejections of the Trinity is the monumental calligraphic inscription partly from the Qur'an (4:171-172 and 19:33-37) that is inscribed upon the inside arcade of the Dome of the Rock on al-Haram esh-Sharif in Jerusalem, just 500m (.3 miles) east of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Eric Cline states, "The inscribed verses of the Koran explicitly deny the Christian concept of the Trinity." [138] The inner walls reading counter-clockwise beginning with the S panel and ending with the SW panel (verses from the Qur'an given here in italics) read:[139][140]

Panel Text
S In the name of God, the Merciful the Compassionate. There is no god but God. He is One. He has no associate. Unto Him belongeth sovereignty and unto Him belongeth praise. He quickeneth and He giveth death; and He has Power over all things. Muhammad is the servant of God and His Messenger.
SE Lo! God and His angels shower blessings on the Prophet. O ye who believe! Ask blessings on him and salute him with a worthy salutation. The blessing of God be on him and peace be on him, and may God have mercy. O People of the Book! Do not exaggerate in your religion
E nor utter aught concerning God save the truth. The Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, was only a Messenger of God, and His Word which He conveyed unto Mary, and a spirit from Him. So believe in God and His messengers, and say not 'Three' - Cease!
NE (it is) better for you! - God is only One God. Far be it removed from His transcendent majesty that He should have a son. His is all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth. And God is sufficient as Defender.[141] The Messiah will never scorn to be a
N servant unto God, nor will the favoured angels. Whoso scorneth His service and is proud, all such will He assemble unto Him.[142] Oh God, bless Your Messenger and Your servant Jesus
NW son of Mary. Peace be on him the day he was born, and the day he dies, and the day he shall be raised alive![143] Such was Jesus, son of Mary, (this is) a statement of the truth concerning which they doubt.[144] It befitteth not (the Majesty of) God that He should take unto Himself a son. Glory be to Him![145]
W When He decreeth a thing, He saith unto it only: Be! and it is. Lo! God is my Lord and your Lord. So serve Him. That is the right path. God (Himself) is witness that there is no God save Him. And the angels and the men of learning (too are witness). Maintaining His creation in justice, there is no God save Him,
SW the Almighty, the Wise. Lo! religion with God (is) Islam. Those who (formerly) received the Book differed only after knowledge came unto them, through transgression among themselves. Whoso disbelieveth the revelations of God (will find that) lo! God is swift at reckoning!


Cher-El L. Hagensick says that the Trinity doctrine owes more of its Triune philosophy to pagan Egyptian and Stoic sources, and that the word Trinity was formulated 100 years after the crucifixion by Tertullian: "The word ‘trinity’ was not coined until Tertullian, more than 100 years after Christ's death, and the key words (meaning substance) from the Nicene debate, homousis and ousis, are not biblical, but from Stoic thought. Nowhere in the Bible is the Trinity mentioned." [146] In other words, the writer says, the early church began to slowly include pagan Greek philosophy that was not taught in the Bible.[146] Scholars also criticize efforts to introduce plurality into God's names in the Old Testament:

"Enough has been said to show that a great majority of the most learned authors in the ‘orthodox’ body who have treated of the subject acknowledge that the argument drawn from the plural forms of Hebrew nouns applied to Deity are totally invalid, in support either of a Trinity or any plurality of Persons in the Godhead. To deduce a plurality in God from a Hebrew idiom is impossible. The argument for plurality in God seems never to have been thought of before the time of Peter Lombard, a puerile writer who lived in the twelfth century"-John Wilson[122]


Mormonism teaches that the "Godhead" is a council of three distinct deities perfectly one in purpose, unity and mission, but nevertheless separate and distinct individuals.[147] This belief of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost being physically distinct beings is in contrast to most denominations of Christianity which continue to uphold the doctrine of the relationship of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost in the terms recorded in creeds, such as the Nicene Creed, which were formulated as part of the Arian Controversy.

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints draw their understanding of the Godhead (Christianity) primarily from the First Vision of Joseph Smith, Jr., who claimed to have actually seen God the Father and Jesus Christ and recounted seeing "two personages," one of which referred to the other as His "Beloved Son." Mormons also cite Biblical script to support their position that God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost are actually three distinct beings. See in the Authorized King James Version: John 20:17; Acts 7:55-56; John 17:5,11,20-26; Matt 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22.

Christian Science

Christian Science explicitly denies the deity of Jesus and has therefore always been non-Trinitarian, for which reason the term is of little significance within its core texts, though Mary Baker Eddy did adopt it on occasion for discussion of a wider spiritual unity with God which characterized all mankind rather than Jesus alone, as in her statement that "The Trinity in Christian Science is found in the unity of God, Christ, and the Holy Ghost or—"God the Father-Mother; Christ the spiritual idea of sonship; divine Science or the Holy Comforter." Its elements thus united but distinct in essential identity, this Trinity indicated "the intelligent relation of God to man and the universe".[148]

See also

Endnotes and references

  1. ^ See discussion in  "Person". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913. 
  2. ^ Grudem, Wayne A. 1994. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press; Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan. Page 226.
  3. ^ "Catechism of the Catholic Church: The Dogma of the Holy Trinity". 
  4. ^ a b c Grudem, Wayne A. 1994. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press; Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan. Pages 226, 236.
  5. ^ Harris, J. Rendel, The Origin of the Doctrine of the Trinity (London: University Press, 1919), 15.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Encyclopaedia Britannica Online, article Trinity
  7. ^ Cf. Marc A. Pugliese, The One, the Many, and the Trinity (Catholic University of America Press 2010 ISBN 9780813217949), p. 240 and Peter L. Berger, Questions of Faith (Wiley, John & Sons 2003 ISBN 9781405108485), p. 117
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (Oxford University Press, 2005 ISBN 978-0-19-280290-3), article Trinity, doctrine of the
  9. ^ John L. McKenzie, S.J., Dictionary of the Bible (New York), p. 899
  10. ^ New Catholic Encyclopedia (1967), Vol. XIV, p. 299
  11. ^ Lewis and Short: trinitas
  12. ^ Lewis and Short: trinus
  13. ^ Liddell & Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon. entry for Τριάς, retrieved December 19, 2006
  14. ^ Theophilus of Antioch, To Autolycus, II.XV (retrieved on December 19, 2006).
  15. ^ W.Fulton in the "Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics"
  16. ^ Aboud, Ibrahim (Fall 2005). Theandros an online Journal of Orthodox Christian Theology and Philosophy. 3, number 1. 
  17. ^ Against Praxeas, chapter 3
  18. ^ Against Praxeas, chapter 2 and in other chapters
  19. ^ History of the Doctrine of the Trinity. Accessed September 15, 2007.
  20. ^ Reese, William L. Dictionary of Philosophy and Religion: Eastern and Western Thought. 1980. Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey: Humanities Press, 1994
  21. ^ Tertullian, Against Praxeas, chapter II
  22. ^ "Neither the word Trinity nor the explicit doctrine appears in the New Testament ... the New Testament established the basis for the doctrine of the Trinity" (Encyclopaedia Britannica Online: article Trinity).
  23. ^ a b The Oxford Companion to the Bible (ed. Bruce Metzger and Michael Coogan) 1993, p. 782-3.
  24. ^ See Book of Wisdom#Messianic interpretation by Christians
  25. ^ a b Catholic Encyclopedia: article The Blessed Trinity
  26. ^ "Encyclopedia of Religion", Vol. 14, p.9360, on Trinity
  27. ^ Gregory Nazianzen, Orations, 31.26
  28. ^ McGrath, Alister E. Understanding the Trinity. Zondervan, 9789 ISBN 0310296811
  29. ^ Harris, Stephen L. Understanding the Bible. Mayfield Publishing: 2000.pp.427-428
  30. ^ a b Stagg, Frank. New Testament Theology. Broadman Press, 1962. ISBN 978-0805416138, pp. 38 ff.
  31. ^ See Elizabeth Lev, "Dimming the Pauline Spotlight; Jubilee Fruits", 2009
  32. ^ Note Eusebius of Caesarea's reference to Matt. 28:19 in Demonstratio Evangelica, written sometime prior to 311 CE. In W.J. Ferrar's 1920 English translation, Book 3, Chap 6, p. 132; and Book 3, Chap 7, p. 137, Eusebius quotes the verse as, "in My name," rather than the later formulaic reading, "in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."
  33. ^ Allen, Willoughby. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel According to S. Matthew. Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark 1907, p. 307-308
  34. ^ United Bible Societies: The Greek New Testament ISBN 3-438-05110-9
  35. ^ Nova Vulgata
  36. ^ See, for instance, the note in 1 Jn 5:7-8.
  37. ^ Bruce M. Metzger, The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration, 2d ed. Oxford University'", 1968 p.101
  38. ^ "It is written of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, 'And these three are one.'" (Cyprian, On the Unity of the Church)
  39. ^ The Presentation of Jesus in John's Gospel
  40. ^ Brown, Raymond E. The Anchor Bible: The Gospel According to John (XIII-XXI), pp. 1026, 1032
  41. ^ The Scriptures on Jesus
  42. ^ John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible, John 12:41, Heb 1:8,10
  43. ^ Albert Barnes' Notes on the Bible, John 12:41, Heb 1:8,10
  44. ^ Adam Clarke's Commentary on the Bible, John 12:41, Heb 1:8,10
  45. ^ St. Paul helps us understand truths about Jesus
  46. ^ See Sharp's article
  47. ^ Bruce A. Baker, Granville Sharp's Rule
  48. ^ Wallace, Daniel B. Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1996. p. 270-271.
  49. ^ Wallace, Daniel B. Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1996. p276.
  50. ^ Wordsworth, Christopher. Six Letters to Granville Sharp Esq. Respecting his Remarks on the Use of the Definitive Article in the Greek Text of the New Testament. London: F. and C. Rivington, 1802. p132
  51. ^ The Authorship of the Fourth Gospel and Other Critical Essays, Ezra Abbot, Boston, 1888, pp. 439–457
  52. ^ "Christology". May 31, 2010. 
  53. ^ Simonetti, Manlio. "Matthew 14-28." New Testament Volume 1b, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture. Intervarsity Press, 2002. ISBN 978-0-8308-1469-5
  54. ^ St. Augustine of Hippo, De Trinitate, Book I, Chapter 3.
  55. ^ Augustine of Hippo, On Eighty-Three Diverse Questions, Question 60.
  56. ^ a b c d St. Basil the Great, On the Holy Spirit Chapter 16.
  57. ^ St. Basil the Great, On the Holy Spirit Chapter 19.
  58. ^ St. Basil the Great, On the Holy Spirit Chapter 21.
  59. ^ Catholic Encyclopedia: article Pneumatomachi
  60. ^ For the two chapters as a single text, see Letellier, Robert. Day in Mamre, night in Sodom: Abraham and Lot in Genesis 18 and 19. Brill Publishers: 1995. ISBN 9789004102507 pp.37ff. Web: 9 January 2010
  61. ^ a b c Francis Watson, Abraham's Visitors (The Journal of Scriptural Reasoning, Number 2.3, September 2002
  62. ^ Augustine had poor knowledge of the Greek language, and no knowledge of Hebrew. So he trusted the LXX Septuagint, which differentiates between κύριοι[Gen 19:2] ('lords', vocative plural) and κύριε[Gen 19:18] ('lord', vocative singular), even if the Hebrew verbal form, נא-אדני (na-adoni), is exactly the same in both cases.
  63. ^ The Trinity in the Old Testament
  64. ^ Larry W. Hurtado, Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2005 ISBN 0802831672 pp. 573-578
  65. ^ Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology: Angel of the Lord
  66. ^ a b Bingham, Jeffrey, "HT200 Class Notes", Dallas Theological Seminary, (2004).
  67. ^ The Encyclopedia Americana (1956), Vol. XXVII, p. 294L
  68. ^ Nouveau Dictionnaire Universel (Paris, 1865-1870), Vol. 2, p. 1467.
  69. ^ Catholic Encyclopedia: article:Paul of Samosata
  70. ^ Athanasius: De Decretis or Defence of the Nicene Definition, Introduction, 19
  71. ^ "The bishops were forced to use 'non-Scriptural' terminology (not 'un-Scriptural') to protect and preserve the Scriptural meaning" (The Arian Controversy).
  72. ^ Encyclopaedia Britannica Online
  73. ^ Athanasius, Bishop of Alexanria, Theologian, Doctor
  74. ^ a b c "Trinity". Britannica Encyclopaedia of World Religions. Chicago: Encyclopædia Britannica. 2006.
  75. ^ On Athanasius, Oxford Classical Dictionary, Edited by Simon Hornblower and Antony Spawforth. Third edition. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.
  76. ^ Orthodox Outlet for Dogmatic Enquiries: On God
  77. ^ 7:1, 3 online
  78. ^ Epistle to the Philippians, 2:13 online
  79. ^ On Baptism 8:6 online, Against Praxeas, 26:2 online
  80. ^ Against Noetus, 1:14 online
  81. ^ Seventh Council of Carthage online
  82. ^ A Sectional Confession of Faith, 13:2 online
  83. ^ Baptism "in the name of" need not be taken as referring to a formula used in the ceremony in either Matthew or Acts; it may merely indicate the establishment of a relationship, corresponding to the phrases "baptized into Christ Jesus"[Rom 6:3] and "baptized into Christ."[Gal 3:27] Compare "baptized ... into John's baptism,"[Acts 19:3] "baptized in the name of Paul,"[1 Cor. 1:13] "baptized into Moses."1 Cor. 10:2
  84. ^ Kittel, 3:108.
  85. ^ Grudem, Wayne A. 1994. Systematic theology an introduction to biblical doctrine. Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press. Page 226.
  86. ^ Athanasian Creed
  87. ^ Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity: The Greek and the Latin Traditions regarding the Procession of the Holy Spirit (scanned image of the English translation on L'Osservatore Romano of 20 September 1995); also text with Greek letters transliterated and text omitting two sentences at the start of the paragraph that it presents as beginning with "The Western tradition expresses first …"
  88. ^ Thomas, and Anton Charles Pegis. 1997. Basic writings of Saint Thomas Aquinas. Indianapolis, Indiana: Hackett Pub. Pages 307-09.
  89. ^ Barth, Karl, and Geoffrey William Bromiley. 1975. The doctrine of the word of God prolegomena to church dogmatics, being volume I, 1. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark. Pages 348-49.
  90. ^
  91. ^ K Rahner, The Trinity (Herder & Herder:1970) p22
  92. ^ Phillip Cary, Priscilla Papers Vol. 20, No. 4, Autumn 2006
  93. ^ Basil the Great, De Spiritu Sancto, NPNF, Vol 8
  94. ^ Athanasius, 3.29 (p. 409)
  95. ^ Basil "Letters", NPNF, Vol 8, 189.7 (p. 32)
  96. ^ Hill, De Trinitate, 2.15
  97. ^ P. van Buren, Christ in Our Place (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1957), p. 38
  98. ^ George Knight III, New Testament Teaching on the Role Relationship of Men and Women (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 1977)
  99. ^ a b An Agreed Statement of the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation
  100. ^ Catechism of the Catholic Church, 247
  101. ^ Lambeth Conference Resolutions from 1978. Accessed May 24, 2009.
  102. ^ Creeds and Authorized Affirmations of Faith from the 'Common Worship' service books. Accessed May 24, 2009.
  103. ^ Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy Online, on Trinity, Link
  104. ^ Oden, Thomas (2006). Systematic Theology: Volume One: The Living God. Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.. pp. 181–224. ISBN 0060663634. 
  105. ^ See below and G Schiller, Iconography of Christian Art, Vol. I, 1971, Vol II, 1972, (English trans from German), Lund Humphries, London, figs I;5-16 & passim, ISBN 0853312702 and ISBN 0853313245
  106. ^ Cartlidge, David R., and Elliott, J.K.. Art and the Christian Apocrypha, pp. 69-72 (illustrating examples), Routledge, 2001, ISBN 0415233925, 9780415233927, Google books
  107. ^ G Schiller, Iconography of Christian Art, Vol. II, 1972, (English trans from German), Lund Humphries, London, figs I;5-16 & passim, ISBN 0853312702 and ISBN 0853313245, p.122-124 and figs 409-414
  108. ^ G Schiller, Iconography of Christian Art, Vol. II, 1972, (English trans from German), Lund Humphries, London, figs I;5-16 & passim, ISBN 0853312702 and ISBN 0853313245, pp. 219-224 and figs 768-804
  109. ^ Bigham, 89-98
  110. ^ The Tome of the Great Council of Moscow (1666-1667 A.D.), Ch. 2, 43-45; tr. Hierodeacon Lev Puhalo, Canadian Orthodox Missionary Journal
  111. ^ The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church Icons
  112. ^ An Ethiopian Iconostasis
  113. ^ for both, G Schiller, Iconography of Christian Art, Vol. I,1971, Vol II, 1972, (English trans from German), Lund Humphries, London, ISBN 0853312702 and ISBN 0853313245, pp. 6-12 and figs 10-16
  114. ^ Schiller, I, figs 7, 10, 11
  115. ^ Guss, David M. (2006). "The Gran Poder and the Reconquest of La Paz". Journal of Latin American Anthropology 11 (2): 294–328. ISSN 1085-7025. 
  116. ^ Jeffry R Holland, Ensign. 2007 November
  117. ^
  118. ^ See indulgences, particular judgment, primacy of the Pope, purgatory, transubstantiation, etc.
  119. ^ Bowker, John. "Cathars." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. 1997. Online: (October 18, 2010).
  120. ^ John M. Riddle (28 March 2008). A history of the Middle Ages, 300-1500. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 411–. ISBN 9780742554092. Retrieved 19 October 2010. 
  121. ^ M. D. Costen (1997). The Cathars and the Albigensian Crusade. Manchester University Press. pp. 201–. ISBN 9780719043321. Retrieved 19 October 2010. 
  122. ^ a b c Anthony Buzzard (July 2003). "Trinity, or not?". Elohim and Other Terms. Retrieved 2 March 2011. 
  123. ^ - Logos Apostolic Church of God
  124. ^ - Logos Apostolic Church of God; "Articles of Faith" concerning baptism and the oneness belief
  125. ^ Eddie Snipes. "Modalists are not Unitarians". Heresies and Heretics in the Early Church. Exchanged Life Outreach. Retrieved 8 March 2011. 
  126. ^ The Oneness of God by David K. Bernard. Explains the Oneness view of God, as opposed to the Trinitarian viewpoint.
  127. ^ Footnote in the cited text
  128. ^ Colossians 1:15-20
  129. ^ T.C.R (09-02-08). "T.D. Jakes is a Modalist". John MacArthur Considers TD Jakes A Heretic. Retrieved 8 March 2011. 
  130. ^ a b c d e William Arnold III. "Baptismal Formula-In Jesus Name?". Baptism in Jesus' Name. IBS. Retrieved 5 March 2011. 
  131. ^ a b c "Matthew 28:19 refers to Baptism in the Spirit". RP108 #3. "Baptism in the name of The Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit". Retrieved 5 March 2011. 
  132. ^ Knight, Kevin, ed., "The dogma of the Trinity", Catholic Encyclopedia, New Advent, 
  133. ^ Tuggy, Dale, (2009). Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
  134. ^ George Johnson. "Problems with The Trinity". Is God really a mysterious Trinity?. Retrieved 28 February 2011. 
  135. ^ Zia Shah. "Trinity Doctrine and Muslims". Retrieved 1 March 2011. 
  136. ^ {{cite web |url=
  137. ^ Reference 2( Holy Quran, سورة المائدة , Al-Maeda, Chapter #5, Verse #73)
  138. ^ Cline, Eric H., Jerusalem Besieged, (Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2004), 154.
  139. ^ Armstrong, Karen, Jerusalem: One City, Three Faiths (New York: Ballantine, 2005), 239.
  140. ^ The Arabic Islamic Inscriptions On The Dome Of The Rock In Jerusalem, 72 AH / 692 CE
  141. ^ Qur'an 4:171 (سورة النساء Surat An-Nisā' "The Women")
  142. ^ Qur'an 4:172 (سورة النساء Surat An-Nisā', "The Women")
  143. ^ 19:33 (سورة مريم Surat Maryam, "Mary")
  144. ^ 19:34 (سورة مريم Surat Maryam, "Mary")
  145. ^ 19:35 (سورة مريم Surat Maryam, "Mary")
  146. ^ a b Cher-El L. Hagensick. "Problems with the Trinity Doctrine". The Origin of the Trinity: From Paganism to Constantine. Herald Magazine. Retrieved 1 March 2011. 
  147. ^ Mormons believe in what is sometimes called "social trinitarianism," meaning the three beings of the Godhead are blended in heart and mind like extremely close friends, but are not one being. Bushman, Richard Lyman (2005), Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling, New York: Knopf, p. 6, ISBN 1400042704 
  148. ^ Eddy, Mary Baker; Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures

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  • Trinity — Trin i*ty, n. [OE. trinitee, F. trinit[ e], L. trinitas, fr. trini three each. See {Trinal}.] 1. (Christian Theol.) The union of three persons (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost) in one Godhead, so that all the three are one God as to… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Trinity FM — is the marketing name of the Dublin University Radio Society, a society in Trinity College Dublin [] . The Society runs a radio station, broadcasting in the centre of Dublin six weeks a year. It… …   Wikipedia

  • trinity — [trin′i tē] n. pl. trinities [ME trinite < OFr trinité < L trinitas, triad, in LL(Ec), the Trinity (infl. by Gr trias) < trinus: see TRINE & ITY] 1. the condition of being three or threefold 2. a set of three persons or things that form… …   English World dictionary

  • Trinity, AL — U.S. town in Alabama Population (2000): 1841 Housing Units (2000): 728 Land area (2000): 3.620374 sq. miles (9.376724 sq. km) Water area (2000): 0.000000 sq. miles (0.000000 sq. km) Total area (2000): 3.620374 sq. miles (9.376724 sq. km) FIPS… …   StarDict's U.S. Gazetteer Places

  • Trinity, FL — U.S. Census Designated Place in Florida Population (2000): 4279 Housing Units (2000): 1863 Land area (2000): 4.721134 sq. miles (12.227680 sq. km) Water area (2000): 0.000000 sq. miles (0.000000 sq. km) Total area (2000): 4.721134 sq. miles… …   StarDict's U.S. Gazetteer Places

  • Trinity, NC — U.S. city in North Carolina Population (2000): 6690 Housing Units (2000): 2759 Land area (2000): 16.897125 sq. miles (43.763351 sq. km) Water area (2000): 0.096566 sq. miles (0.250104 sq. km) Total area (2000): 16.993691 sq. miles (44.013455 sq.… …   StarDict's U.S. Gazetteer Places

  • Trinity, TX — U.S. city in Texas Population (2000): 2721 Housing Units (2000): 1284 Land area (2000): 3.778128 sq. miles (9.785305 sq. km) Water area (2000): 0.000000 sq. miles (0.000000 sq. km) Total area (2000): 3.778128 sq. miles (9.785305 sq. km) FIPS code …   StarDict's U.S. Gazetteer Places

  • trinity — ► NOUN (pl. trinities) 1) (the Trinity or the Holy Trinity) the three persons of the Christian Godhead; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. 2) a group of three people or things. ORIGIN Latin trinitas triad , from trinus threefold …   English terms dictionary

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