The Trinity is defined as: God the Father (the First Person of the Godhead), God the Son (the Second Person of the Godhead), and God the Holy Spirit (the Third Person of the Godhead), and all Three comprise One God.
Note, in using the terms First, Second and Third Person, we do not rank the Godhead in order of importance.
The mainstream Christian position is Trinitarian. The Trinity, however, is denied by a significant number of Christians, some of whom are in the mainstream churches. We shall refer to these as non-Trinitarians. In view of this disagreement, we must determine whether the Trinity is supported in Scripture.
Note, the author is firmly a Trinitarian. Thus the thrust of this study is to present the Trinitarian position. However, the non-Trinitarian position is also presented, summarized briefly from non-Trinitarian sources (e.g. www.biblicalunitarian.com and Wikipedia).
2. The Trinitarian / non-Trinitarian controversy
The Trinitarian believes that, while fulfilling their individual roles, all three Persons of the Godhead are each equally and fully God.
The non-Trinitarian believes that God the Father is Self-existent, but that the Son (Christ) originated from the Father. Thus Christ cannot be self-existent.
Also, non-Trinitarians believe that the Holy Spirit is not a Person but a force.
2.1 Non-Trinitarians reject two scriptures, asserting that they are not found in early manuscripts:
1. Mt 28:19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
There is much debate about the origins of this text, but a number of scholars assert that it is original. Additionally, early Christian writers such as Tertullian (2nd century AD) confirm that baptism was conducted in the manner of the text.
2. 1Jn 5:7 For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.
It seems that this text does not appear before the Greek New Testament published by Erasmus in 1516. However, it is asserted by some that Tertullian refers to this text in his writings.
Despite their apparent importance in supporting the Trinitarian position, these texts are not necessary to support the Trinity. This study continues with what, in the author's view, are some important points regarding God and the Trinity.
3. What is the intrinsic nature of God?
In this section, for clarity and deeper understanding, references to Strong’s concordance have been made.
3.1 God the Creator
Strong's H430 Elohiym, plural: Gods
The very first verse of the Bible introduces God as Creator using the plural Elohiym (Strongs H433, Gods):
Ge 1:1 In the beginning God [Elohiym] created the heaven and the earth.
The plural ‘Elohiym’ addressing God the Creator is used is used about 30 times in Genesis 1, and appears elsewhere; for instance:
De 4:32 For ask now of the days that are past, which were before thee, since the day that God [Elohiym] created man upon the earth...
In contrast, the singular 'Eloah' (Strong's H433, god), in the context of God as Creator, is used only once:
Job 35:10 But none saith, Where is God [Eloah] my maker [Strong's H6213, to do or make], who giveth songs in the night;
Many claim that although the plural is used, it is used in the singular sense (this view is taught for instance in the Encyclopedia Britannica) in order to emphasize the majesty of God. Thus, it is claimed, God the Father alone is Creator, and therefore in Genesis chapter 1 the doctrine of the Trinity is not supported.
However, the New Testament teaches that Christ is Creator; for instance:
Col 1:16 For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:
Thus the position that the Father alone is Creator is contradicted, and the doctrine of the Trinity is thereby supported (Christ as Creator is also addressed in study: ‘Christ: His status and authority’).
To more fully understand the nature of God the Creator, we must consult other Scriptures.
God, JEHOVAH (Strong's H6308) is Creator
Is 42:5 Thus saith God [Strong's H410, the Almighty] the LORD [JEHOVAH], he that created the heavens, and stretched them out...
Ex 20:11 For in six days the LORD [JEHOVAH] made heaven and earth...
Both Elohiym and JEHOVAH
Is 40:28 Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God [Elohiym], the LORD [JEHOVAH], the Creator of the ends of the earth...
Is 42:18 For thus saith the LORD [JEHOVAH] that created the heavens; God [Elohiym] himself that formed the earth and made it...
3.2 God our Redeemer (both Elohiym and JEHOVAH)
Is 54:5 For thy Maker is thine husband; the LORD [JEHOVAH] of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God [Elohiym] of the whole earth shall he be called.
Is 48:17 Thus saith the LORD [JEHOVAH], thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel; I am the LORD [JEHOVAH] thy God [Elohiym] which teacheth thee to profit, which leadeth thee by the way that thou shouldest go.
3.3 The Name of God
De 6:4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD [Strong's H6308 JEHOVAH] our God [H430 Elohiym, plural: Gods] is one LORD [JEHOVAH]
This Scripture is a plain statement of God's identity, which confirms that He is intrinsically a plural God.
Christ Himself quoted Deuteronomy 6:4, confirming that God is intrinsically plural:
Mk 12:29 And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord:
GOD, the Creator, is variously referred to as Elohiym (plural), as JEHOVAH, and within the same context, both as JEHOVAH and Elohiym. Likewise, God our Redeemer is referred to as both JEHOVAH and Elohiym.
This is a strong indication that the intrinsic nature of God is plural.
Thus we may surmise that God comprises more than one distinct Person. We must now confirm in Scripture the identities of those Persons.
3.5 The non-Trinitarian position
‘Elohiym’, when applied to GOD, is used in the singular sense. It is used in the plural sense (gods) when it is applied other than to GOD. The Jews did not understand the use of the plural (e.g. in Ge 1:1) to mean that GOD is a plurality. Rather, it was used for amplification and emphasis - akin to the ‘royal we’ used by royalty even today.
4. Almighty God
When in both the Old and New Testaments the word translated 'God' appears with the definite article 'the' it refers to Almighty God. Note, to view the grammatical constructs the interlinear analytical software ISA2basic has been used.
4.1 The Old Testament
In the Old Testament the Hebrew word ‘Elohym’ (Strong's H430), preceded by the definite article ‘the’ (rendered in ISA2basic: 'e∙aleim') appears 365 times. For instance:
Ge 5:22 And Enoch walked with God [ISA2basic, e∙aleim , the God] after he begat Methuselah three hundred years, and begat sons and daughters:
Da 1:9 Now God [ISA2basic, e∙aleim, the God] had brought Daniel into favour and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs.
Note. The use of ‘Elohiym’ now becomes clearer. When it appears with the definite article, it is used in the singular sense (the God), referring to Almighty God. Without the definite article, it is used in the plural sense. When ‘Elohiym’ refers to God the Creator, it is always used in the plural sense.
4.2 The New Testament
In the New Testament the Greek word ‘Theos’ (Strong’s G2316, God) preceded by the definite article ‘the’ (rendered mainly 'ho theos', though, while the meaning remains the same, the definite article sometimes takes a different form) appears 310 times. For instance:
Mk 12:29 And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord [Strong's G2962, Supreme in authority] our God [ISA2basic, ho theos, the God] is one Lord [G2962]:
Jn 3:16 For God [ISA2basic, ho theos, the God] so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
Because of our inadequate sin-tainted understanding, God is expressed in Scripture only in a way we can understand. For instance, in Jn 3:16 (above) a Father-Son relationship is portrayed clearly, but it cannot be a conventional relationship as we understand such relationships. Nevertheless, Jn 3:16 does portray a Godhead comprised of more than one person.
In summary, there is no debate on the nature of Almighty God the Father - the disagreement occurs on whether He is one of three co-equal Persons. Thus we must continue with an examination of Christ and the Holy Spirit, to determine their status and authority.
5. The nature of Christ - is He very God?
As we have seen, Trinitarians believe that Christ is God the Son. Non-Trinitarians, however, hold that Christ originated from Almighty God the Father at some point, or that He had no existence prior to His incarnation. Thus He is subordinate to Almighty God.
This is in fact akin to the Arian teaching, named after Arius, a 3rd Century AD Alexandrian priest. In the early Christian era Alexandria was the centre of Gnosticism, which combined elements of Christianity and Mysticism, and denied the full Divinity of Christ.
The need to deal with Arianism led to the Council of Nicaea, which resulted in the Nicene creed of 325 AD. Many non-Trinitarians claim the Trinity first appeared in the Nicene creed, and is thus an invention of the early church that was later incorporated into Roman Catholic doctrine.
The nature of Christ is such an important issue that it is addressed in the separate study: ‘Christ: His status and authority’. For the purpose of the study here, the author believes and teaches, based on Scripture, that Christ is the Second Person of the Godhead, and that He is wholly and fully God.
Next, we must turn our attention to the Holy Spirit.
6. Is the Holy Spirit both a person and God?
6.1 The Holy Spirit, a person
One way to determine this is to look for aspects of the Holy Spirit that apply to a person:
The Holy Spirit can move a person physically to another place:
Eze 37:1 The hand of the LORD was upon me, and carried me out in the spirit of the LORD, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones,
Ac 8:39,40 And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing.
40 But Philip was found at Azotus: and passing through he preached in all the cities, till he came to Caesarea.
The Holy Spirit can take a physical form
Mk 1:10 And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him:
Jn 1:32 And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him.
The Holy Spirit can be vexed
Is 63:10 But they rebelled, and vexed [Strong’s H6087, worry, pain or anger] his holy Spirit: therefore he was turned to be their enemy, and he fought against them.
The Holy Spirit can be grieved
Ep 4:30 And grieve [Strong’s G3076, distress] not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.
The Holy Spirit can be lied to
Ac 5:3,4 But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?
4 Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.
Note. The record does not say that Ananias lied separately to the Holy Spirit and to God. Thus here the Holy Spirit and God are synonymous, indicating that the Holy Spirit is God.
The Holy Spirit can be vexed, grieved, and lied to - The Holy Spirit can take a physical form and can move a person physically.
These things can be done only to and by a person. Thus we can refer legitimately to the Holy Spirit as a person.
However, if the Holy Spirit is the third person of the Godhead He must be established as God, equal with Christ.
The non-Trinitarian position
Such verses as these are assumed by Trinitarians to indicate that the Holy Spirit is a person because they are pre-disposed to the Trinitarian position. With respect to Acts 5:3,4 (above), it is an example of semantic parallelism, where a single entity is referred to in different ways simply for emphasis. It is clear that Ananias did not lie to two different persons - thus 'Holy Spirit' and 'God' are simply two different ways of referring to the one Person, GOD, and not that the Holy Spirit is God in His own right.
6.2 Christ and the Comforter - are they equal?
Christ referred to the One whom He would send in His place as the Comforter. If the Comforter is to be equal with Christ, then they must have the same fundamental role and purpose.
The Comforter - the ‘Parakletos’ (Strong’s G3875, Intercessor, Consoler)
Jn 14:16 “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another [Strong’s G243, allos (masculine): else i.e. different] Comforter [Strong’s G3875, parakletos (masculine)] that he may abide with you for ever;”
Note. ‘Another’ (Strong’s G243, allos), means ‘different’ only in the numerical sense, not in the sense of quality (Thayer’s Greek Lexicon).
Conclusion: the Comforter is addressed by Christ as another Comforter, i.e. one who is other than Himself but who is the same as Himself in quality. Additionally, the word translated ‘another’ (allos) and Parakletos are both masculine words, indicating that the Parakletos, the Comforter, is a person.
Christ - the ‘Parakletos’
1Jn 2:1 “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate [Strong’s G3875, parakletos] with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:”
Christ and the Comforter are both the ‘Parakletos’. Thus they are co-Intercessor and co-Comforter, and are therefore fully equal.
The non-Trinitarian position
When Christ says He will send another comforter, He means He Himself will return in a different form. If you believe that the Holy Spirit is co-Intercessor, you contradict:
1Ti 2:5 “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;”
A mediator cannot be the same as one for whom he/she is mediating - thus neither Christ nor the Holy Spirit can be fully God because the Mediator stands between man and God.
Author’s response: with God all things are possible (Mt 19:26). Thus it is fully possible for both Christ and the Holy Spirit to be at once: wholly God, Intercessor, and Comforter. We cannot limit God to the confines of sin-tainted human reasoning.
6.3 The Comforter (the Holy Spirit) addressed by Christ as ‘He’
We have seen that Christ and the Comforter are both Intercessor, and are thus equal, confirming the Comforter both as a Person and as God.
In this section we see that the Comforter is the Holy Spirit, and that Christ reinforces the personhood of the Holy Spirit by referring to Him as 'He'.
First, it is important to understand that the Greek uses a single pronoun for he/she/it, i.e. Strong’s G1565, ‘ekeinos’ - thus a pronoun must be translated according to the gender of the noun to which it applies, which is normally what happens.
However, there is an exception which is the cause of Trinitarian/non-Trinitarian disagreement, as seen in the following verse, in which Christ is speaking to His disciples:
Jn 15:26 But when the Comforter [Strong’s G3875 Parakletos (masculine)] is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit [Strong’s G4151 Pneuma (neuter)] of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he [Strong’s G1565, ekeinos (masculine)] shall testify of me:
Here, the Spirit, a neuter noun, has the masculine pronoun applied. However, it is clear that the subject of the sentence is the Comforter (Parakletos, a masculine noun) whom Christ Himself equates to the Spirit (pneuma, neuter noun) of Truth and addresses as ‘he’.
The translators took their lead from this and applied the masculine pronoun to 'Spirit', thus translating what, in the author's view, is Christ's intended meaning: that the Holy Spirit is a Person.
Christ again equates the Comforter to the Holy Spirit:
Jn 16:7,8 Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter [parakletos (masculine)] will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him [Strong’s G846, personal/possessive pronoun] unto you.
8 And when he [ekeinos (masculine)] is come, he [ekeinos (masculine)] will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:
The translators continued this principle in the following scripture. They use the masculine pronoun throughout, even though it refers to the neuter noun 'Spirit':
Jn 16:13 Howbeit 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 shew you things to come.
In so doing, the author contends, they translate Christ's intended meaning accurately.
The author’s position
The ‘Parakletos’ (Comforter and Intercessor) is a masculine noun for a purpose, i.e. to indicate a person, and that Christ equates the 'Parakletos' and the Holy Spirit to emphasize that the Holy Spirit is indeed a Person, and is God.
The Bible translators, inspired by the Holy Spirit, understood this and translated Scripture accordingly.
The non-Trinitarian position
The use of “he” and “him” in these verses (in John) is invalid because the gender of the noun and pronoun have nothing to do with whether or not the subject is actually a person. Thus the use of the pronoun ‘he’ reflects the Trinitarian bias of the bible translators.
We have seen that both Christ and the Holy Spirit are Comforter and Mediator and are thus equal, and that the Holy Spirit is equated by Christ to the Comforter, who is addressed as ‘he’ and is therefore a Person.
Thus we can conclude (based on the author’s position that Christ is wholly God - see study: ‘Christ: His status and authority’) that the Holy Spirit, being equal to Christ, is wholly God, the Third Person of the Godhead.
7. Overall comment
It is clear from sources that there are different ‘camps’ within non-Trinitarianism, each having their different shades of belief. This contrasts with Trinitarianism, in which there is just one position, i.e. there are three co-equal Persons comprising one God.
We must question the purpose of non-Trinitarianism - what is objectionable about Christ being very God, and the Holy Spirit being both a Person and very God?
In studying the Trinity, we must remember that it is not given to us to understand God - not even the very highest angel (Gabriel, Lk 1:19), a position once occupied by Lucifer/Satan, is allowed into the deep things of God.
We know only what is revealed in scripture, which, in the view of the author, makes plain that God is composed of three co-equal Persons. Indeed, in the view of the author, if Christ were not fully and wholly God He could not be the Saviour of we created beings - we are dependent equally upon all three Persons of the Godhead for our salvation.
In short, the non-Trinitarian downgrades Christ. The Trinitarian exalts Christ.
Every Christian must prayerfully and carefully consider their position on this important matter.
The general Trinitarian position is that the Holy Spirit has influenced the translation of scripture, and thus we have a correct rendering of the Trinitarian texts. The general non-Trinitarian position is that bible translations are biased towards the Trinity, and thus many Trinitarian texts are incorrectly rendered.
This study has focussed on God the Father and the Holy Spirit; Christ is addressed in the separate study: ‘Christ: His status and authority'.
The author is firmly a Trinitarian, and maintains that there is ample Scriptural evidence to support the Trinitarian position. However, for each point addressed, the non-Trinitarian position has been summarized and presented.
All are urged to consider their position on this matter.