ORIGIN OF THE TRINITY
The original teachings of Christ shone forth
with wonderful radiance into the darkness of the Roman world. The Gospel in the beginning
was preached in plain terms by simple men, and it was received with gladness by the meek
of the earth. The twelve apostles of Jesus Christ, as long as they lived, were the
guardians of faith, keeping it pure from human traditions and Pagan influence. Few
Christians realize how rapidly corruption entered the church after their death. We are
told by historians that the church conquered the world, but in reality the world overcame
the church. As the Gospel message increased in popularity, hordes of Pagans entered the
church, bringing with them Pagan ideas. Great catechetical schools were formed; ritualism
took the place of Bible study; and costly buildings replaced the catacombs. The pastors of
the flock, once noted for self-sacrifice and piety, became wealthy lords over the common
people. The sacred heritage of the Bible was buried in creeds, superstition, and forgotten
languages; and the ruling powers eventually made it a capital crime to translate the Bible
into the common tongue.
Sola Scriptura was the rallying cry of
the great Reformation, when the Bible was exalted by Protestants as the sole guide of
faith. The Catholic doctrine of tradition as an equal authority in religious matters was
at that time firmly rejected. Evangelical Christians ever since have relied
(theoretically) on the Bible alone as the source of revealed truth, but in practice they
seldom measured up to that high standard.
Thus historic Christianity,
historic Protestantism, and various other euphemisms for tradition are
frequently cited in the writings of Protestants as authority for doctrinal positions. We
hear them saying that nothing more can be known about basic Christianity than is outlined
in the conflicting creeds of established churches; and that to assert any really different
opinion about the Holy Scriptures now would be presumptuous, for so many generations of
pious Christians could surely not be wrong. This traditionalism is a serious error. The
necessity for upholding the Bible as the only touchstone of truth is manifest throughout
church history, particularly as we consider the various Christian teachings on the nature
of the Deitya subject which, though certainly of cardinal importance, has been one
of the most hotly debated issues in the history of the church.
Trinitarianism a Gradual Development
The concept of a trinity was widespread
throughout the Pagan world. In Japan there was a threeheaded divinity called San Pao
Fuh: in India the trinity was called, Eko Deva Trimurtti, One
God, three forms. The Babylonians also had a trinity, as did the Pagans of
Siberia, Persia, Egypt, and Scandinavia. Long after the apostles died, the teaching that
God is a trinity began to be introduced into the Christian church. It was championed
chiefly by the educated converts from Paganism and resisted by ordinary believers.
The victory of orthodoxy was a triumph of priests and theologians over the indeed
deeply rooted faith of the people....¹¹ That the Father and the Son are equal,
however, was at first denied by all. Early church writers, such as Irenaeus, Clement of
Alexandria, Tertullian, Origen, Novatian, Arnobius, and Lactantius. were very explicit in
affirming that the Heavenly Father alone is the supreme God and that Jesus is completely
subordinate to his authority and will.
During the early years of the fourth century, a
heated controversy raged between the Arians (named after Arius, their leader and the
Trinitarians, led by Athanasius. The Arians maintained that Jesus is a created being,
pre-existent, though having a beginning in time, a son in the normal sense of the word,
and subordinate to the Father. The Athanasian party argued that the Son is fully God,
co-equal and co-eternal with the Father.
Fearing that religious dissension might disrupt
the political unity of the Empire, the Emperor Constantine summoned a general council of
bishops to settle the dispute. Meeting at Nice in 325 A.D., the council upheld the
teachings of Athanasius and formulated the Nicene Creed. Arius was excommunicated and
banished, along with those of the bishops who held out against the decision of the
majority and the threats of the Emperor.
The basic Trinitarian position was finally
forged at the Council of Constantinople, A.D. 381, where the Holy Spirit was declared to
be a divine person, although Harnack states that in the third century the majority of
Christians believed it was merely a divine power.² At the Council of Ephesus, A.D. 431,
and again at Chalcedon in 450 A.D., Jesus was asserted to be eternally both human and
divine, a unity of two natures. The Council of Ephesus, incidentally, added Mary as a
supplement to the Trinity, declaring that she should be received and honored as Theotokos,
Mother of God.
Thus the controversy on the nature of God was
settled, or so orthodox historians would have us believe. And thus, we are told, the Holy
Spirit guided the church into an understanding of the truth. In point of fact, however,
these councils, settled very little. Other councils met as well and upheld Arianism! The
fortunes of both sides seesawed according to the politics of the Empire.
Whenever the Arians were dominant, they
persecuted the Trinitarians; and when their fortunes were reversed, the Trinitarians
persecuted them. The eventual result was not so much the outcome of rational debate and
pious scholarship as of power politics and shedding of blood. By the start of the eighth
century, Arianism was externally suppressed.³ for the Trinitarians proved to be more
efficient in killing the Arians than the latter were in killing them. Thus was orthodoxy
established. And the most avid defender of holy tradition cannot deny that, had the Arians
been militarily successful, their position would have become the standard of orthodoxy
instead of that of their opponents.
The Trinitarian consensus, imposed by force of
arms, related more to a formula than to the actual substance of belief. The doctrine of
the Trinity was simultaneously declared to be a deep mystery, which nobody can understand,
and a dogma which must be accepted to obtain salvation. Artists pictured their beliefs
with varied representations. Some portrayed the Deity as three separate men, looking
alike; others, as three men distinguished. Still others represented it as three heads on
one body, or three faces on one head.
Since the latter part of the nineteenth century,
the Trinitarian position has come under searching criticism throughout the world. To meet
these attacks, evangelicals have been modifying their doctrinal formulations. Thus Dr. R.
A. Torrey, recent Superintendent of the Moody Bible Institute, has advanced a
subordinationist view, stating that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are three
separate persons, co-eternal but not co-equal. The Father, according to Dr. Torrey, is
superior to the Son, and the Holy Spirit is subordinate to both.4
Another area of modification by contemporary
Trinitarians is relative to three gods in one or three persons in one
substance. Walter R. Martin, of the Christian Research Institute, modifies this
point with the following definition:
Within the unity of the one God, there are three
personsthe Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; and these three share the same
nature and attributes. In effect, then the three persons are the one God.
Similarly, in an essay entitled The Triune
God, published by Christianity Today,5 the term
substance used in the Athanasian Creed is modified. This Creed was affirmed by
Catholics and Protestants for many centuries. However, this essay concedes that the
formula of the trinity often read three persons in one substance (Greek, treis
hypostaseis en mia ousia, and Latin, tres personae in una substantia )
There is, thus, no uniform Christian position on
the nature of God. Reliance upon human tradition has been a great source of difficulty to
many Christians who are earnestly seeking to understand Gods Word. The divinely
inspired Scriptures are the only valid evidence for Christian belief, and any objective
appraisal of their teaching must include all scriptures pertinent to any subject, i.e.,
the earnest student of Gods Word must be willing to harmonize the Scriptures, not
merely selecting those verses which seem to support his position while ignoring the rest.
Only thus can a Christian be a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly
dividing the word of truth.2 Tim. 2:15
In summation, the following facts regarding the
origin of the Trinity are irrefutable:
1. The word Trinity nowhere appears
in the Bible.
2. The word Trinity does not even
appear in Christian literature till the beginning of the third century. Even then, it
meant something very different from the interpretation now given to the word. Tertullian,
the first to use the word, believed that only the Father was without beginning.
The Son, according to him, had a beginning, and
his pre-human existence was of the angelic nature. The oneness of the Father and the Son
was a oneness of purpose and will.
3. Trinitarians themselves are forced to concede
that the doctrine of the Trinity was not completely forged until the fourth century.
4. There is not even a hint of the Trinity in
the Old Testament. The Jews, Gods chosen people from old Testament times, have never
held this belief. In all of the voluminous rabbinical writings (Talmud) which date from
Old Testament times, neither the Trinity nor any similar concept is once mentioned.
THE FATHER OF
GLORY IS THE ONE SUPREME GOD
Whenever the Scriptures use the word
God in the sense of Supreme Deity, they refer to the Father alone. Thus in
prayer Jesus calls his Father the only true God, excluding himself (John
17:3). The Bible, in fact, refers to the Heavenly Father as Jesus God (John 20:17).
The Apostle Paul, contrasting the Christian position with the heathen worship of many
gods, states that to us there is but one God, the Father, although he
attributes to Jesus a lesser position of Lordship (I Cor. 8:6). For despite his present
high position of exaltation and divine favor, our Lord Jesus is inferior to the Father and
eternally subject to him, as the Apostle expressly states:
But I would have you know, that the head of
every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is
God.1 Cor. 11:3
Then comes the end, when he [Christ] shall have
delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father... But when he says all things are put
under him [the Son] it is manifest that he [the Father] is excepted, which did put all
things under him. And when all things shall be subdued to him [the Son], then shall the
Son also himself be subject to him that put all things under him, that God [the Father]
may be all in all.I Cor. 15:24,27,28
We, of course, do not deny, but rejoice to
affirm, that Jesus Christ is now a divine being, worthy of our worship and adoration.
The appellation God may be properly
ascribed to him. But even while the Scriptures refer to Jesus as a God, they
do so in contexts showing his distinct inferiority to the Father. And notice that it is
not simply Jesus as a man, but Jesus as a God who is thus shown to be
subordinate. Heb. 1:1-9
The beautiful oneness of the Father and the Son
is declared by our Lord to be the same oneness that shall exist between himself and his
church, as he prayed:
Holy Father, keep through your own name those
whom you have given me, that they may be one, as we are... Neither pray I for these alone,
but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one;
as you, Father are in me, and I in you, that they also may be one in us: that the world
may believe that you have sent me. And the glory which you gave me I have given them; that
they may be one, even as we are one: I in them and you in me....John 17:11, 20-23
The only scriptural support for the idea of
three divine persons mysteriously being one God is the dubious passage of 1 John 5:7,8:
"For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy
Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the
Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one. "
The words underlined above are not found in any
of the oldest and most reliable manuscripts, nor in any of the ancient translations. That
they are not a genuine part of the original text is the unanimous verdict of contemporary
scholars, evangelicals included. Even as it stands, however, the forgery is a poor one,
asserting that the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit are bearing witness in heaven
that Jesus is the Christ. Who in heaven would be ignorant of such a thing? The proposition
is pointless. No wonder Trinitarian scholars readily concede these words are spurious.
The claim is often made by Trinitarians that,
since there is only one God, and since Jesus is referred to in the Scriptures as God, then
the Father and the Son are the same God. This argument totally ignores the usage of the
Greek and Hebrew words from which the English word God is translated.
The word God in the New Testament is
most frequently a translation of the Greek word theos. It is sufficient to state
here that this word does not always apply to Supreme Deity. Satan, for instance, is called
theos in 2 Corinthians 4:4, which reads, In whom the god (theos) of
this world has blinded the minds of them that believe not.... The same word is used
of Herod in Acts 12:22, where the people of Sidon and Tyre shouted after his oration,
It is the voice of a god (theos), and not of a man. They surely did not
mean to say that Herod was the supreme God.
Whether the Father or the Son is meant by any
particular use of theos in the New Testament is generally left to the readers
judgment, the person referred to being indicated by context and sentence construction. An
exception to this is John 1:1, where the Greek definite article is used to distinguish the
Father as the God from the Son, who is called a God. The Greek
language, it is true, contains no indefinite article corresponding to the English
a. But the indefinite article is implied by the context and, therefore, must
be included in the English translation. Benjamin Wilson gives the correct rendering in his
"In the beginning was the Word, and the
Word was with the God, and a god was the Word.
The unbiased reader should have no difficulty
understanding these words.
True, a few Trinitarians stress Colwells
idea that, whenever a definite noun in New Testament Greek precedes the verb, the definite
article is usually omitted, but that when the noun follows the verb, the article is
retained. This rule, though not valid, simply throws the whole question open. According to
Colwells rule, the English translation is to be made according to whatever
preconception the translator brings with him to the text, for whether a noun is definite
or not cannot be grammatically ascertained. Thus if one believes that the word theos in
the clause, and the Word was a god, is definite (referring to the God), he
will translate the words, and the word was God, or, and the Word was the
God. But if he believes the noun to be indefinite, he will translate the clause,
and the Word was a god. The superiority of and the Word was a god,
is that it makes the passage consistent. If one translates the verse in the Trinitarian
manner, he is involved in a contradiction, for how can the Word be with God if
he is the God with whom he is? The context of John 1, consistent with the rest of
the Bible, shows clearly that the Word was a god, not the God. For
a more detailed examination of Colwells rule, see the Appendix.
In response to John 1:1, Trinitarians sometimes
argue that John 20:28, where, according to the Greek text, Thomas calls Jesus, the
Lord of mine and the God of mine, proves that Jesus is the supreme God, because he
is there called the God. But even the devil is called the God in 2
Corinthians 4:4, which says that ...the God of this world has blinded the minds of
them that believe not.... The use of the article by itself proves nothing; what is
significant about John 1:1 is the contrast between the Father, who is called the
God, and the Word or Representative of the Most High God, who is himself
Appellations of Deity in the Old Testament
The word God in the Old Testament is
generally a translation either of elohim (with its variations eloah, elah, and
el) or Jehovah (the Anglicized form of Yahweh). Once it is a translation of Adonai
(Hab. 3:19), properly rendered Lord, and once of tsur, a rock.Isa.
The assertion by Trinitarians that, because
Jesus and the Father are both called elohim, they are, therefore, the same Being,
is a very poor argument, displaying only the weakness of the position they are trying to
defend. Notice the usage of this word in Scripture:
ANGELS CALLED ELOHIM
You have: made him a little lower than the
angels (elohim), and have crowned him with glory and honor.Psa. 8:5
ABRAHAM CALLED ELOHIM
And the children of Heth answered Abraham,
saying to him, Hear us, my lord: you are a mighty (elohim) prince among
MOSES CALLED ELOHIM
I have made you a god (elohim ) to
JUDGES CALLED ELOHIM
His master shall bring him to the judges ( elohim
THE CHURCH CALLED ELOHIM
I have said, You are gods ( elohim ); and
all of you are children of the most High.Psa. 82:6
Elohim signifies a mighty one, prince,
ruler, or judge; and since it is scripturally used to refer to men and angels, as well as
to God, its use in referring to our Lord Jesus Christ does not in any way prove his
equality with God.
Nor is there any validity in the assertion that,
because elohim is plural in form, its application to God in the Scriptures
indicates that there is more than one person in God. Psalm 45:6, Your throne, O God
( elohim ), is for ever and ever, is explained by Paul as a statement
addressed by the Father to the Son (Heb. 1:8). If elohim referred always to more
than one person, there would be more than one person in the Son! In the verse quoted above
(Ex. 7:1) Moses is called elohim by God. Was Moses plural? Certainly not, for the
word elohim, like our English word sheep, can be either singular or
plural, as the occasion demands.
Unlike elohim, however, the word Jehovah
is applied only to the Father,6 never to the Son. The
translators of our common Bibles have done us a great disservice in leaving the word
untranslated only four times, where the context would seem to permit nothing else.
In the vast majority of instances it is translated either LORD or GOD. In our common
versions, nevertheless, it can be easily recognized, since it is always printed in small
capitals (GOD, LORD), while regular print is used to designate translations from other
words (God, Lord).
The argument presented by Trinitarians is that
both the Father and the Son are called Jehovah; therefore, they are both the same
God. But the scriptures they cite to prove that Christ Jesus is Jehovah do not sustain
We are told that in Jeremiah 23:5,6, our Lord
Jesus is called Jehovah, for that prophecy respecting Messiah reads, And this
is the name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS ( Jehovah-Tsidkenu
). They fail to point out, however, that in Jeremiah 33:16 the church, pictured
by Jerusalem, is called by the same name: ...and this is his name wherewith she
shall be called, The Lord our righteousness ( Jehovah-Tsidkenu). Certainly
the church is not a part of Jehovah. To bolster their prejudice, the translators had the
words printed in capitals in the first instance, but tucked it away with small letters in
the second. Jehovah-Tsidkenu could more properly be translated, Our
Righteousness of Jehovah a fitting title for our Lord Jesus, who in execution
of the Fathers will has become the source of justification for believers in his
name. The title is appropriate also for the church, to whom is committed the ministry of
reconciliation, the great commission of bringing sinners back into harmony with
God.II Cor. 5:20; Rev. 22:177
Another citationused to prove that Jesus
is Jehovah is Isaiah 40:3, which reads, The voice of him that cries in the
wilderness, Prepare you the way of the LORD ( Jehovah ), make straight in the
desert a highway for our God. This prophecy is quoted in the New Testament (Matt. 3:
3) and applied to John the Baptists work of preparing the Jews to receive Christ.
But we remind the reader that Jesus came expressly to do the Fathers work, as he
said, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work
(John 4:34J. Jesus was the Fathers instrument in the accomplishment of his gracious
plan. Therefore, in preparing the Jews to receive Christ, John the Baptist was preparing
the way for the accomplishment of the Fathers work.
The prophecy of Isaiah 40:10 is regarded as sure
proof that the Son is Jehovah: Behold, the Lord GOD ( Jehovah ) will come
with a strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him. But notice here that the Father
only is called Jehovah; Jesus is referred to as his Arm. Likewise, in
Isaiah 53:1 Jesus is called the arm of Jehovah.
We are asked to believe that, since Jesus is our
great teacher, he must be Jehovah, for Isaiah 54:13 reads, And all your children
shall be taught of the LORD ( Jehovah); and great shall be the peace of your
children. But Jesus himself merely claimed to be the Fathers representative,
My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me.
If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or
whether I speak of myselfJohn 7:16,17
...whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the
Father said to me, so I speak.John 12:50
For I have given to them the words which you
gave me....John 17:8
All things are of the Father and by the Son (I
Cor. 8:6). It is no difficulty to us that both the Son and the Father are given credit for
creation (John 1:3; Isaiah 40:28); for Paul explains that the Son, as always, was the
Fathers honored agency: God ...has in these last days spoken to us by his Son,
whom he has appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds... (Heb.
1:1,2). Similarly, both the Father and the Son are called Savior, because the
Father himself originated the work of atonement when he gave his only begotten
Those who insist on referring to Jesus as
Jehovah, rather than the Son of Jehovah, are not able to make good sense out of many
passages where Jesus and Jehovah are most clearly distinguished.
The Second Psalm (vss. 7,8) furnishes a good
I will declare the decree: the LORD (
Jehovah) has said to me, You are my Son; this day have I begotten you. Ask of me, and
I shall give you the heathen for your inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth
for your possession.
If the Son is Jehovah, he received his
inheritance as a gift from himself! The above citation clearly calls the Father Jehovah,
in contradistinction to the Son. In Psalm 110:1, likewise, we read, The LORD (Jehovah)
said to my lord (Adon), Sit you at my right hand, until I make your enemies
your footstool. That the Adon here referred to is Christ there can be no
doubt, for he himself so states (Luke 20:4244). The Son, indeed, is a great Lord; but his
authority and power come from Jehovah God, for the Scriptures plainly teach that Christ is
Jehovahs servant.Isa. 42:1; 53:11
Another text chiefly relied upon by Trinitarians
to prove that the name Jehovah belongs to Jesus is Zechariah 12:10, in which
Jehovah says: And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of
Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they
have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for his only son, and shall be
in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.
Since Jehovah refers to Messiah, the one who is
pierced, as me, they simply cite Revelation 1:7 and consider their proof
complete. The thoughtful reader, however, will at once notice a discrepancy: the speaker
in this verse refers to Messiah as both me and him in the same
sentence. An error, apparently, has crept into the text. A number of ancient manuscripts
gave a more consistent reading; thus: ...they shall look to him whom they have
pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for his only son, and shall be in
bitterness for him... The text, thus corrected, definitely does not teach that
Messiah is Jehovah.
Before Abraham Was, I Am
John 8:58 is said to be another strong proof
that Christ is Jehovah, for the name Jehovah is said by Trinitarians to mean
I Am the Self-Existing One and Jesus in that verse
says, Before Abraham was I am. Jesus, however, does not apply l am
to himself as a title; he uses the words as the subject and verb of an ordinary sentence,
meaning simply that from before Abrahams time until the present he had had a
continuous existence. To make I am a title in this sentence is grammatically
absurd. For Jesus to have said, Before Abraham was, I was, might have been
mistaken by his hearers to mean that he had existed at some time in the remote past, had
ceased to exist for a time, and had come into existence again. To avoid this
misunderstanding, Jesus used the words, I am, to imply a continuous existence.
Jesus existed long before Abrahams time: and he continued to exist after Abraham
until, as the Word made flesh he uttered those very words.
The word Jehovah, more correctly Yahweh,
does not really mean I Am but He Who Becomes, as J. B.
Rotherham, an authority widely recognized among Protestants, has shown.
Yahweh is the third person, masculine,
singular, imperfect tense of the root hawah, the sole meaning of which is
become. And so Jehovah, the Heavenly Father, is forever He Who
Becomes, the unfolding one, eternally revealing himself in creative power.
THE ONLY BEGOTTEN
The Pre-human Existence of Christ
Another principal argument of Trinitarians is
derived from Micah 5:2, which reads:
But you, Bethlehem Ephratah, though you be
little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall he come forth to me that is to
be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.
They assert that, since Jehovah is from
everlasting to everlasting, Jesus must be Jehovah; for in the above verse he is said to be
from everlasting. The weakness of this argument lies in the translation. There is no word
in Hebrew that expresses the concept of eternity. The word olam here rendered
everlasting, more properly signifies an indefinite or extended period of time.
It is translated long in Psalm 143:3, the context showing that it could not
possibly refer there to infinite time: ...he has made me to dwell in darkness, as
those that have been long dead. Other translators have rendered olam. in
Micah 5:2 as follows:
...whose origin is from of old, from ancient
days. Revised Standard Version ...whose comings forth have been from of old,
from the days of age-past time.Rotherham
And his comings forth are of old, From the days
of antiquity.Youngs Literal Translation ...whose origin is from olden
times, from most ancient days.Leeser
The prophecy in this verse simply teaches
Messiahs pre-human existence. And to this interpretation the remainder of the
passage agrees, for the fourth verse does not say that Messiah is Jehovah, but that he
will stand and feed in the strength of the LORD (Jehovah), in the majesty of
the name of the LORD ( Jehovah ) his God.
The spiritual, pre-human life of Jesus was
glorious, but not without beginning. He was the first creation of God, and the only direct
creation of Godthe only begotten of the Father.
Everything else was made by the Father through
his chosen instrument, the Son (Heb. 1:2). In proof that Jesus was a created being, we
cite Colossians 1:15, where Paul calls him the firstborn of every
creature (Greek lit., of all creation). Trinitarians assert, the term
firstborn here indicates priority solely in position rather than in
time. This does not harmonize with the context. Verse 18 compares Christ with the church
and calls him the firstborn from the dead. At his resurrection, Christ was the
first in point of time to be born from the dead. The repetition of the word
firstborn in verses 15 and 18 reveals that Paul is making a direct parallelism
between Christs relationship to all creation in verse 15 and to the church in verse
If firstborn from the dead denotes
first to be born from the dead, as well as pre-eminence over all resurrected, then
firstborn of all creation denotes the first to be created as well as
preeminence over all creation. The attempt to explain away this verse as signifying
firstborn before all creation is an unwarranted tampering with the text. The
word before simply is not there. They are changing the facts to fit the
Jesus is the beginning of the creation of
God (Rev. 3:14), and he is the end for which all things are made, the heir of the
universe (Heb. 1:2). He is the first and last direct creation of God. The title of
Only Begotten Son (John 1:18) is his alone for all eternity. No other son of
the Highest was, or ever will be, made directly by the Father.
The Trinitarian claim that Jesus was not
begotten, but is being eternally generated by the Father, does violence to Bible language.
The very same Greek word (monogenes) translated
only begotten in reference to our Lord in John 1:14 is in Hebrews 11:17,18,
applied to Isaac, the son of Abraham:
By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up
Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of
whom it was said, that in Isaac shall your seed be called....
Clearly, Isaac was not being continuously
generated by Abraham. And the words only begotten and Son when
applied to Jesus Christ are to be interpreted in their straightforward sense.8 Jesus
pre-human life (we believe he was the highest of all spirit beings, next to the Father) is
referred to in Philippians 2:5-9, which we quote from the Revised Standard Version:
Have this mind among yourselves, which you have
in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a
thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the
likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient to
death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him....
The above text, often cited in favor of the
Trinitarian view because of its wretched translation in the King James Version, is here
shown to clearly contradict that doctrine. Jesus did not, like Satan, attempt to usurp
divine prerogatives (Isa. 14:13), but emptied (Greek, divested)
himself of his high position and spirit nature, becoming the man Christ Jesus
(1 Tim. 2:5). As a perfect man he suffered Adams penalty in his stead, thus
releasing Adam and his posterity from the curse of death.1 Cor. 15:21 .22
The King James Version, which reads,
thought it not robbery to be equal with God, controverts the passages
true meaning, presenting as much a problem to Trinitarians as to their opponents.
For if Jesus were already God, there could be no
thought of him robbing God by attempting to be equal with himself. In support of our
interpretation of this verse we cite the following:
...Not a thing to be seized accounted the being
equal with God....Rotherham
Yet he did not regard equality with God as
something at which He should grasp.Weymouth
...did not violently strive....Dickenson
...did not meditate a
...did not meditate a usurpation....Wilson
The word harpagmos, variously translated
above, is defined by Liddell and Scotts Greek- English Lexicon as robbery,
anything that is seized, plunder. Because Jesus did not arrogate to himself divine
prerogatives, but, contrariwise, humbled himself as the Fathers servant, God gave to
him at his resurrection a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth.... (Phil. 2:9,10).
Jesus was not worshipped by the angels until he was thus exalted above them to the divine
nature and glory.
When he had by himself purged our
sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; being made so much better than
the angels, as he has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than
The Man Christ Jesus
And the Word was made flesh
(John 1:14). Jesus Christ set aside his spirit nature and became a mere man a
perfect man, to be sure, but a man, nevertheless. Nowhere do the Scriptures refer to
Christ as a God incarnate in human flesh. Nowhere in the Bible is taught the extravagant
mystery of a Christ consisting of two natures combined into one person. The traditional
doctrine of the incarnation is simply without scriptural support. Trinitarians, in fact,
are forced by their doctrine to treat our Lord Jesus as though he were two separate
persons, saying it was the human, not the divine, Christ who prayed in Gethsemane,
...take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what you will
(Mark 14:36). How, indeed, could God pray to himself and have his own prayer refused? And
when Christ was highly exalted by the Father at his resurrection, they say that his human
body was somehow mysteriously invested with divine attributes. Christ as God,
they say, was always divine and, therefore, could not be exalted. Yet they claim that this
deified body remains truly human! Sympathy with our Christian friends cannot prevent us
from realizing that, when treating the humanity of Christ, Trinitarianism becomes a
species of (well-intentioned) double talk.
How much simpler and more scripturally
harmonious is the Bible declaration that Christ was put to death in the flesh, but
made alive in the spirit (I Peter 3:18, R.S.V.). The King James Version reads,
quickened by the Spirit, but the word by simply is not contained
in the Greek text.* Paul says of Christ that at his resurrection he was made a
quickening spirit (1 Cor. 15:45). For though after his resurrection he appeared to
his disciples in various human forms assumed for those occasions, he is now a glorious
divine being, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man has
seen, nor can see ....l Tim. 6:16
[* The words in the and
by the have no equivalent Greek words in this passage. Though the dative case
of sarki (flesh) and pneumati (spirit) require a preposition in translating
into English, the evident contrast between the words themselves indicates that the same
preposition in should be used in both instances: put to death in (the)
flesh, but made alive in (the) spirit.]
When difficulties with their teachings
are pointed out, Trinitarians often respond that their
doctrine is the historic position of
the church, that any inconsistency therewith is a mystery a line of
argument which could be used to support almost anything. Some even cite 1 Timothy 3:16 to
prove their claim that the relationship between Christ and the Father need not make sense:
Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of our
religion: He* was manifested in the flesh, vindicated in the Spirit, seen by angels,
preached among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.
[* So reads the Revised Standard
Version. The King James Bible says, God was manifested, but that is incorrect.
The most ancient manuscripts read whoin English read, He
The Greek word for mystery
means a secret, and so the Gospel has ever been a mystery to unbelievers,
though understood by those to whom Christ is revealed. The fallacy of their argument is
that in this very verse, Paul explains the mystery or secret of which he is speaking.
Neither are we seeking to detract from the glory
of the risen Christ, for in him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead (theotes,
Deity) bodily (Col. 2:9). The fullness of divine glory (Col. 1:19)
the plenitude of wisdom, grace, and power make him the able executor of the
Fathers wonderful plans. All power in heaven and earth belongs to Jesus since his
resurrection (Matt. 28:18). The counsels of God, before kept secret (Mark 13:32), are now
entrusted to his care (Rev. 5:1-5). We look forward with rejoicing to the day when all
mankind will join the heavenly chorus, singing, Blessing, and honor, and glory, and
power, be to him that sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb for ever and ever.
Rev. 5: l3
THE HOLY SPIRIT
We turn next in our consideration to the Holy
Spirit of Goda subject which, despite its great prominence in Scripture and the
emphasis placed upon it by Christian groups, has seldom been correctly understood. The
cause of this misunderstanding is not the abstruseness of the subject itself, nor the
difficulty of Bible language respecting it; but, rather, it results from the continual
failure of Bible students to consider the Scripture testimony as a whole. In this subject,
as in all others, we must be willing to harmonize apparent contradictions, allowing one
passage to shed light upon another and avoiding hasty conclusions. Only thus will we be
rightly dividing the word of truth.2 Tim. 2:15
The word spirit in the Old Testament
is a translation of the Hebrew word ruach, the rootmeaning of which is
wind. In the New Testament, also, the word spirit comes from a
root meaning wind, the Greek pneuma . Because wind is an invisible and
powerful force, both ruach and pneuma came to have a much broader
significance, as the following examples indicate:
And with the blast (ruach) of your
nostrils the waters were gathered together....Ex. 15:8
You did blow with your wind (ruach) Ex.
...all flesh, wherein is the breath (ruach) of
life. Gen. 7:15
...which were a grief of mind (ruach) to
Isaac and to Rebekah.Gen. 26:35
The wind (pneuma) blows where it
pleases.... John 3:8
...foreasmuch as you are zealous of spiritual (pneuma)
gifts....1 Cor. 14:12
And he had power to give life (pneuma) to
the image of the beast....Rev. 13:15
We call attention to the foregoing verses to
show that ruach and pneuma do not signify personality (necessarily) but
invisible power or influence. These words were incorrectly translated Ghost
ninety-two times in our King James Bible, the translators seeking to give the words a
coloring of personality which they do not really possess. The translators of the English
Revised Version changed the word Ghost to Spirit in twenty-one
occurrences; and the American Revision Committee protested their use of the word
Ghost the remaining seventyone times. Thus in the American Standard Revised,
as in most modern translations, the term Holy Ghost does not appear. It should
be noted also that whether or not the word spirit ought to be capitalized is
not indicated by the original text. It is a matter of personal judgment and preference.
The Holy Spirit is variously described in the
Bible as The Spirit of God, The Spirit of Truth, The Spirit
of Love, The Spirit of a Sound Mind, The Spirit of Power,
The Spirit of Grace, The Spirit of Prophecy, The Spirit of
Wisdom, The Spirit of Glory, The Spirit of Meekness,
The Spirit of Christ, The Spirit of Holiness, etc. These titles
all refer to one aspect or another of the mind of God and of his Son, Christ Jesus. The
Holy Spirit therefore is a term which designates the mind of God, or any operation
thereof, whether in miracle-working power or in sanctifying, enlightening influence. The
following scriptures depict the Holy Spirit as
THE MIND OF GOD:
And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always
strive with man...!Gen. 6:3
But they rebelled, and vexed his
[Jehovahs] holy Spirit: Therefore he was turned to be their enemy.... Isa.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is
high, I cannot attain to it. Whither shall I go from your spirit?Psa. 139:6,7
THE POWER OF GOD:
But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus
from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwells in
For I will not dare to speak of any of those
thin which Christ has not wrought by me, to make the Gentiles obedient, by word and deed,
through mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God ....Rom.
Then Samson went down...and, behold, a young
lion roared against him. And the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him, and he rent
him as he would have rent a kid....Judges 14:5,6
THE SANCTIFYING, ENLIGHTENING INFLUENCE OF
...because the love of God is shed abroad in our
hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given to us. Rom. 5: 5
For as many as are led by the Spirit of God,
they are the sons of God.Rom. 8:14
That he would grant you, according to the riches
of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man....Eph.
For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but
of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.II Tim. 1:7
Our Lord Jesus received wisdom and power by an
outpouring of the Holy Spirit at his baptism (Isa. 61:1;11:2,3; Matt. 3:16). Having
received the Spirit without measure and conformed his life thereto, he is now able to send
it forth to believers. We, receiving his Spirit, are said to have the Mind or Spirit of
Let this mind be in you, which was also in
Christ Jesus....Phil. 2: 5
For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he
may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ. 1 Cor. 2:16
Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he
is none of his.Rom. 8:9
The Holy Spirit Not a Person
Nothing in any of the various titles and
descriptions of the Holy Spirit substantiates the popular conception of the Holy Spirit as
a third God. The various designations, Spirit of Truth, Spirit of
Love, etc., are plainly used in contrast with the opposite spirit, The Spirit
of Fear, The Spirit of Bondage, The Spirit of the World,
The Spirit of Divination, The Spirit of Error, The Spirit of
Slumber, The Spirit of Antichrist. There is no more justification for
saying that the Holy Spirit is a divine person than for saying that these descriptions of
the wrong spirit or disposition represent one or more additional devils.
It is at least highly conspicuous that Paul
omits to mention the Holy Spirit in his summary of divinity in 1 Corinthians 8:6; and in
John 17:3, Jesus asserts that one must know only two persons to gain eternal life:
And this is life eternal, that they might know you the only true God, and Jesus
Christ, whom you have sent. Paul opens all of his epistles (except Hebrews) with
greetings from the Father and the Son only. The Holy Spirit does not send greetings
because it is not a person. Nowhere in the Bible, furthermore, is the Holy Spirit called
We cannot overemphasize how clearly the
Scriptures teach that the Holy Spirit is not a person, but the Spirit of a person, whether
of the Father of Glory or of his beloved Son. 2 Corinthians 11:4 contrasts the Spirit of
Truth with another spirit the Spirit of Error. In 2 Timothy 1:7, the
Spirit of Power is shown to be the opposite of the Spirit of Fear.
Paul in Romans 8:15,16, contrasts the Spirit of Bondage with the Spirit
of Adoption, saying, For you have not received the spirit of bondage again to
fear; but you have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. In
1 Corinthians 2:11, the Holy Spirit is explained by a comparison of the Spirit of God to
the spirit of a man. The Holy Spirit is to God as the spirit or mind of a man
is to man. Verse 12 of the same chapter proceeds to contrast Gods Spirit (mind or
disposition) with the mentality of the world, the spirit of the world. The
Apostle John in I John 4:2,3, shows the distinction between the Spirit of God and the
Spirit of Antichrist, between the Spirit of Truth and the antichristian Spirit of Error.
In these verses the Holy Spirit is contrasted with influences, not with persons. These
contrasts would be meaningless if the Holy Spirit were a person.
Personal Pronouns Wrongly Applied
John 14:26 is often cited to prove that the Holy
Spirit is a person, because this verse has been wrongly translated as follows: But the
Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach
you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, hatsoever I have said to you.
The use of the personal pronoun whom
in the above text is unwarranted, reflecting simply the translators prejudice. The
word translated whom is in the neuter form and should have been translated
which; and the pronoun translated he (ekeinos ) in the
passage is masculine to agree with the word rendered comforter, which is
masculine even if the comforter is inanimate.
(For example, in French, a knife would be spoken
of as he, a fork as she. It would be just as logical to insist
that a fork is a person because the word fork is feminine in French, as to claim that the
comforter is a person because the word is masculine in Greek.) The Emphatic Diaglott gives
a better rendering:
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, which the
Father will send in my name, shall teach you all things, and remind you of all things
which I said to you.
A similarly incorrect use of personal pronouns
occurs in John 14:17. The Diaglott, however, renders it thus:
...the Spirit of Truth, which the world cannot
receive, because it beholds it not, nor knows it; but you know it; because it abides with
you, and will be in you.
The use of the personal pronoun heautou, translated
himself in John 16:13, does not at all prove the personality of the Holy
Spirit; for in this case the Greek pronoun simply follows its noun, Comforter, which is
masculine. In Greek, as in many other languages, the pronoun agrees with the gender of its
noun, regardless of sex or personality. One might just as well cite 1 Corinthians 13:4,5,
Charity...seeks not her (heautes) own, to prove that charity is a
person, as to claim that the use of heautou proves the personality of the Holy
As illustrations of the translation of the word heautou
in the neuter form, in our Common Version, note the following:
As the branch cannot bear fruit itselfJohn
The whole body...makes increase of the body to
the edifying of itself in love.Eph. 4:16
The same principle is true of the personal
pronoun which is translated he in John 16 :13.
Sanctification by the Holy Spirit
All true Christians are sanctified by God
through his Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:11; Rom. 8:11). The principal means by which we obtain
this sanctifying influence is the study of his Word (John 17:17). By meditating upon the
thoughts of God as revealed in his Word, and by applying his counsels diligently in our
lives, we acquire by degrees the mind (spirit or disposition) of God himself and of his
Son (1 Cor. 2:16). Thus we are exhorted by God to be filled with the Spirit
(Eph. 5:18)not filled with a person, but with the will, mind, or disposition of a
person: that is, God. Likewise, the Prophet Joel, foreseeing the day when God would bless
And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will
pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your
old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: And also upon the servants
and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit.Joel 2:28,29
Compare the above passage with Zechariah 12:10.
It is impossible to imagine a person being poured out. Rather, Gods holy influence
and loving power are now being shed forth upon the church, and during Christs
Kingdom on earth, shall be sent forth upon the world at large.
The Holy Spirit of God is vastly powerful, but
its work in our hearts is a delicate operation, subject to our willingness to be led by
it. Therefore, we are exhorted by Paul that we quench not the Spirit (I Thess.
5:19), the influence of God, in our hearts. Again, we are told that we must grieve
not the holy Spirit of God, whereby we are sealed (Eph. 4:30). It is not a God in
heaven that we are not to grieve nor quench: it is the influence of the one true God in
our hearts that must not be quenched. It is the new mind within us, the Holy Spirit in our
hearts, that must not be grieved by the pangs of guilt, doubt, and unrighteous passion.
The new life that we live in Christ (II Cor. 5:17), the
new will, mind, or disposition begotten within us by Gods Holy Spirit (I John 5:18),
is a treasure carried in an earthen vessel (11 Cor. 4:7), subject to continual assault by
the world, the flesh, and the devil. The working of Gods Holy Spirit in our hearts
must be guarded with great care, for the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the
Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that you cannot
do the things that you would.Gal. 5:17
Apparent Difficulties Considered
Romans 15:30 is sometimes cited to prove the
personality of the Holy Spirit, for there the Apostle Paul beseeches his fellow
Christians, for the Lord Jesus Christs sake, and for the love of the
Spirit, to pray for him. Paul is not, however, as the Trinitarians claim, commending
the love of the third person of the Trinity to the church. He is rather appealing to their
own love for fellow Christians, which was shed abroad in their hearts by the
Holy Spirit. That would not make the Holy Spirit a person; for in 2 Thessalonians 2:10
Paul speaks of the love of the truth, and the truth is not a person either.
The intercessory function of the Holy Spirit is
said to be another proof of its personality, for Romans 8:26 reads:
Likewise the Spirit also helps our infirmities;
for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself makes
intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
This verse refers exclusively, however, to the
operation of the Spirit in our hearts. Our new minds, our righteous dispositions, begotten
by Gods Spirit, cry out in anguish against the sin in our bodies and hearts; but our
poor brains, alas, are unable to express this grief in appropriate words. Therefore, we
are assured by Gods Word that this inward groaning of our new minds against sin,
though not fully expressed in words, is considered by the Father as an acceptable prayer
for the forgiveness of our sins. It would be a strange thing, indeed, to interpret this
verse as signifying that a divine being had to address the other two Gods with unutterable
groans. Yet that is precisely what Trinitarians do!
1 Corinthians 2:10-13, similarly, refers to the
work of the Holy Spirit within us, for Gods Spirit in our hearts leads us to search
the Scriptures, that we might receive the hidden wisdom of God.
The line of argument which says that, since the
Holy Spirit leads us into truth, it is a teacher, and if a teacher, then a person, ignores
the plain Scripture doctrine that the Holy Spirit of itself teaches nothing (John 16:13).
Rather, God and Christ teach by means of the Holy Spirit, which is their agency and medium
of communication. Any enlightenment which we receive from the Scriptures is by the power
or influence of God, not from a third person In the Book of Acts there are a few
expressions which, at first glance, seem to give credibility to the idea of a personal
Holy Spirit. For example, the Holy Ghost said, the Spirit said to
Philip, they...were forbidden of the Holy Ghost, the Holy Ghost
witnessed, the Holy Ghost has made you overseers, (Acts 8:29; 13:2;
16:6; 20:23,28). When we examine these passages closely, however, in the light of their
contexts, all difficulty disappears. Nothing in them necessitates the idea of the Holy
Spirit as a third God. The Holy Spirit, rather, is first of all, the mind of God, and
second, any power or influence emanating from God. In these verses the Holy Spirit is the
agency or power of God by which he communicated to the apostles. An example of the manner
in which the Holy Spirit guided the apostles is furnished in Acts 16:9, where in
Pauls vision a man of Macedonia prayed to him, saying, Come over into
Macedonia and help us. The expression found in Acts 15:28, it seemed good to
the Holy Ghost, and to us, merely indicates that the apostles own judgments
were in accord with the leading which they received from God, through his Holy Spirit
(power or influence).
When Ananias withheld a part of his gift, Peter
rebuked him, saying, ...why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Ghost...?
You have not lied to men, but to God (Acts 5:3,4). In lying to Peter, Ananias was
lying to the Holy Spirit, which Peter possessed. He, evidently, did not realize that in
attempting to deceive Peter, who had the gift of discerning spirits, he was
trying to put something over on God. The reader should note, however, that nowhere in this
text is the Holy Spirit itself called God, as some have misconstrued.
John 16:13, a text which is heavily relied upon
by Trinitarians as one of their strongest proofs, will be seen upon close inspection to
forcefully contradict their claim. The verse reads:
How can it be when he, the Spirit of truth, is
come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever
he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come.
Jesus refers not to the visit of another person
from heaven, but the working of Gods power in the minds of his disciples. For the
Spirit of God was to be in them, bringing to their remembrance and understanding the many
dark sayings which he had committed to them (John 14:26). The Holy Spirit was not to be a
teacher itself, but a means of communication between Jesus and his disciples. The Holy
Spirit does not teach us anything directly: it enables us to appreciate and comprehend the
truths already contained in the Word of God. It was the agency by which Jesus and the
Father spoke, but it did not speak of itself Thus the apostles were to understand the
leadings of the Holy Spirit to be communications from God and from Christ.
To use a simple illustration, one may with
propriety say, The radio said thus and so, and yet the radio does not speak of
itself, but simply conveys messages from the producers of its programs.
Likewise, a vision instructed Peter to accept
Gentiles into the church. Yet the vision did not speak of itself: it was wrought by the
Holy Spirit (power) of God to communicate a message from God to Peter.
The fact that Jesus uses personification as a
mode of speaking in the above text does not give any real support to the Trinitarian
position, unless one ignores the united testimony of the Scriptures on this subject. We
know that Jesus is merely using personification because many other scriptures plainly
teach that the Holy Spirit is not a person. Jesus spoke in this manner for the purpose of
introducing a new and then difficult subject in the simplest possible way. And the
apostles to whom he spoke, with their strong Jewish zeal for the one God Jehovah, were in
no danger of taking the figure literally.
A similar case of personification occurs in John
3:8, where Jesus said, The wind blows where it pleases. Thus he figuratively
attributes the power of choice to the wind, treating it as if it had personality, though.
of course, it does not. Notice also that the veracity of the Holy Spirit is
commended in John t6:13 by virtue of the fact that it does not speak of itself, but only
what it hears. If the Holy Spirit were a God, he would be a teacher in his own right and
would not be limited to merely explaining the teachings of God and of Christ for his
testimony to be reliable. Thus the traditional dogma of the Holy Spirit as a third God
co-equal and co-eternal with the Father and the Son is plainly contradicted.
The Simplicity of Bible Truth
The Trinity is said to be a doctrine of
great richness, but we are forced to regard it as the cause of much confusion.
The real teachings of the Holy Scriptures appear resplendent in contrast with the error of
human creeds. the Father is really a Father; the Son is truly a Son. The man Christ
Jesus was really a man, and when he died for our sins, he actually died. The one God
of the Bible is really one God, and the Spirit of the only true God is really
Gods Spirit, and not another God. The teachings of the Bible are at once harmonious,
rational, and comprehensible.
They contain no absurdities which must be
rationalized under the slogan of mystery. When the basic outline of Bible
truth is understood, all the details and ramifications of doctrineof Gods plan
of atonement, of the life and sacrifice of Christ, of the resurrection of the just and the
unjust, and of the coming blessing of all the families of the earth through
Christare seen to be one consistent whole, a sublime superstructure which elicits
our praise, thanksgiving, and rational assent.
The publishers realize that this little booklet
could not begin to cover every aspect of the subjects that have been discussed, nor
attempt to answer every objection that might possibly be raised. In the 490-page book, The
Atonement Between God and Man, the nature of God, of Christ, and of the Holy Spirit
are examined in depth, with reverence for the Bibles authority. Such topics as the
ransom sacrifice of Christ, the hope of immortality, the curse of death, and the work of
the Holy Spirit are explained in beautiful, yet simple, languageand with thorough
scriptural documentation. Since its original publication in 1899, this work has had a vast
circulation, proving a great blessing to thousands of readers. It has had a widespread
effect in forcing many Trinitarians to rethink their position. Many, after reading
this book, have dropped the dogma of the Trinity altogether and returned to the pure truth
of Gods Word. We enthusiastically and prayerfully recommend it.
APPENDIX ON JOHN 1:1
The New Testament is written in what is called Koine
Greek. Koine means common, and it is an appropriate term,
therefore, to designate the language of the common people in the Graeco-Roman world. The Koine
was the language of everyday life, identical to that found in the wills, trade
agreements, petitions, and private letters of New Testament times. It was the language of
the street, and, as such, differed greatly from the polished Greek of educated writers,
who copied in an artificial way the Attic prose of four centuries before.
Thus the Greek of the New Testament does not
perfectly follow classical rules of grammar, any more than our own everyday language
conforms to the rules set down by English grammarians.
The rules of grammar guide everyday speech, but
they do not find their perfect expression in it.
One could not reasonably expect a study of New
Testament Greek to furnish invariable rules of grammar, just as one would not study the
letters of clerks, say, or of soldiers today to determine accurate rules for the use of
our indefinite article. Thus, Walter Bauer has suggested that it is impossible to form
binding rules for the use of the Greek article.* The language of the New Testament is
flexible and sublime, not grammatically precise. It was written, not for the wise of this
world, but for the meek.
Worterbuch Zum Neuen Testament, 1928.]
E. C. Colwells so-called rule
is not a rule of grammar of the Koine Greek, but simply an observation of certain
characteristics of the New Testament languagean observation most Trinitarians agree
has many exceptions. N. Turner (a Trinitarian) sums up Colwells case as
In Colwells count, which is somewhat
arbitrary, only 15 articular predicate nouns precede the verb, while 239 follow it, and
only 40 anarthrous predicate nouns follow the verb while 99 precede it. Judicious
selection among the MS variants may remove some of the exceptions to Colwells canon
but cannot remove all. So that while the canon may reflect a general tendency it is not
absolute by any means; after all, it takes no account of relative clauses or proper nouns,
and he has also omitted a considerable class of qualitative nouns like that in
[GREEK TEXT] moreover, he is the first to admit the lack of objectivity in his method of
counting: he professes to include only definite nouns among his anarthrous predicates, and
the degree of definiteness is extremely difficult to assess.
And in a footnote he adds: Paul is the
most significant breaker of Colwells rule.*
To whatever extent Colwells observation
may be applicable, the emphasis of scriptural understanding is placed upon contextual
interpretation, since there is no purely objective way to determine whether a noun is
definite or indefinite. Colwell asserts that the anarthrous (used without the article ) theos
of John 1:1 is definite because a definite theos is applied to Jesus in John
20:28. But it does not follow that every use of theos in regard to Jesus must,
therefore, be definite.
[* N. Turner, A Grammar of New
Testament Greek, Vol. 3, p. 184, 1963.]
A predicate nominative may be used to indicate
the identity of the subject, or to show some quality about the subject. The confession of
the eunuch (Acts 8:37), I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God,
identifies the subject. The statement, God is love, (I John 4:8) qualifies the
subject. If the anarthrous theos of John 1:1 be considered as qualifying the
subject, the clause containing it could be translated, and the Word was like
God. In harmony with this, we read that Christ was th e image of God (2
Cor. 4:4). That this likeness did not extend to exact sameness of nature or being is
clearly proven by other scriptures.
Even since the publication of Colwells
rule, many Trinitarians have continued to emphasize the qualitative interpretation of John
1:1, rather than considering the anarthrous theos definite, as does Colwell. For if the
noun is definite, the clause should be translated, and the Word was the God.
But since the Father is the God, this translation would imply that the Word is the
Fatheran absurdity even to most Trinitarians. To avoid this trap, they differ with
Colwell and interpret the noun god as qualitative; and once again the meaning
of the verse is found to depend on ones interpretation of the context.
The following quote from William Barclay on John
1:1 is an example of this qualitative application by Trinitarians*:
[*William Barclay, The Gospel of
John, (Daily Study Bible Bible Series), Vol. 1, p. 17.]
Finally John says that the Word was God. There
is no doubt that this is a difficult saying for us to understand, and it is difficult
because Greek, in which John wrote, had a different way of saying things from the way in
which English speaks. When Greek uses a noun it almost always uses a definite article with
it. The Greek for God is theos, and the definite article is ho When Greek speaks about God
it does not simply say theos; it says ho theos. Now when Greek does not use
a definite article with a noun that noun becomes much more like an adjective; it describes
the character, the quality of the person... When John said that the Word was God he was
not saying that Jesus is identical with God; he was saying that Jesus is so perfectly the
same as God in mind, in heart, in being that in Jesus we perfectly see what God is like.
The following is a partial list of Trinitarian
authorities on New Testament Greek who wrote before and after Colwells rule. All
emphasize the qualitative interpretation of the anarthrous theos in John 1:1 and
thus disagree with Colwell: William Barclay, Martin Vincent, J. P. Lange, Robert Young,
Brook Foss Westcott, Kenneth Wuest, George Turner, Julius Mantey, H. E. Dana, Moulton,
APPENDIX ON MONOGENES
Since the title Only Begotten Son
implies that the Son of God had a beginning, it has proven to be a dilemma for
Trinitarians. Many Trinitarians, aware of the weakness of modifying only begotten
son to mean eternally generated by the Father, have used another approach. They
claim the Greek word monogenes, when applied to the Son of God, means the only one
of a class or kind instead of only begotten. Hence, they refer to Jesus as the only
Son, not only begotten Son.
Kittels THEOLOGICAL DICTlONARY OF THE
NEW TESTAMENT (Vol. 5, pp. 738-741) 1967, a staunch Trinitarian work, observes that monogenes
can have a broader meaning than only begotten. However, it goes on to state that when monogenes
is used in the New Testament, It means only begotten... In (John)
3:16, 18; 1 John 4:9; (John) 1:18 the relation of Jesus is not just compared to that of an
only child to its father. It is the relation of the only begotten to the father. In John
1:14, 18; 3:16, 18;1 John 4:9 monogenes denotes more than the uniqueness or
incomparability of Jesus. In all these verses He is expressly called the Son, and He is
regarded as such in John 1:14. In John monogenes denotes the origin of Jesus. He is
monogenes as the only begotten .
In addition to the five foregoing citations in
which only begotten refers to Jesus. monogenes is used four other times
(Luke 7:l l, 12, Luke 8:41,42; Luke 9:38: Heb. 11:17-18). These four instances confirm
Kittels observation that in New Testament usage, monogenes solely denotes an
only begotten son or daughter John 1:18 points up a further difficulty of monogenes for
Trinitarians. According to some of the oldest and best manuscripts(Example: Sinaitic Codex
and Vatican Codex l209),the phrase only begotten Son should read only
begotten God. Most scholars recognize the superiority of this reading. Therefore,
John 1:18 reads: No man had seen God at any time; the only begotten God, which is in
the bosom of the Father, he has declared him. In harmony with John 1:1, our Lord
Jesus Christ is a god separate and distinct from the heavenly Father. Further, he had a
He is the only begotten god. The
heavenly Father alone was without beginning.
To circumvent this scriptural logic, some
Trinitarians arbitrarily change the phrase only begotten God to God only
begotten. But as the Trinitarian W. J. Hickie, in his Greek English Lexicon to
the New Testament (1963 edition) observes, It is hard to see why monogenes
theos must be translated the only begotten Son, while monogenes theos, which
is given by Westcott and Tregelles after the very oldest MSS, must not be translated the
only begotten god, but god only begotten.
From the foregoing, it is clear that monogenes,
when used with the Son of God, denotes the Only Begotten Son, who had a beginning. And
this nullifies the concept of three Gods, coeternal, without beginning.
¹ Adolf Harnack, Outlines of the
History of Dogma, trans. E. K. Mitchell (Starr King Press), l 957, p. 266. (A
² Ibid., p. 266.
McClintock and Strong, Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical
Literature (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House), Vol. 1, p. 392, 1895. (A Trinitarian
4 R. A. Torrey, The
Person and Work of the Holy Spirit (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House), 1910.
5 Samuel J.
Mikolaski, The Triune God (Christianity Today), p. 5.
6 Or an angel
speaking in his name. (Ex. 3:2,4,14;Judges 6:12, 14; Zech. 3:1,2)6 Or an angel speaking in his name. (Ex. 3:2,4,14;Judges 6:12, 14; Zech. 3:1,2)
7 For other
examples of the use of Jehovah in a compound word, see Gen. 22:14; Ex. 17:15;Judges
detailed consideration of monogenes see Appendix.
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