Trinity – History

Already soon after Jesus had died certain false teachings were preached. Against those the apostles warned the people. For them, people should be careful not to be attracted by the philosophical teachings of the Greeks. They had several ideas about man and his life and afterlife.

The apostles insisted their followers that they should not take on popular sayings, but that they should take care that the Truth must be spoken, maintained and defended, though all might be condemned – including ourselves.

People always have loved to be part of something or to belong to a group where they were appreciated and recognised and could play a role in the group and enjoy festivities together. Love always conforms to the will and wishes of its object. See if it is not so.  If the love of Christ is a distinct enthusiasm of the mind, the doing of his commandments is inevitable by the laws that govern the mental operations of every human being. But in this world we can see that a lot of people love this intricate world, which can offer them a lot of materialism. Many also love the power they can get in this world. For that reason, many agreed to confirm to the laws and rules of this world. At one point in history preachers of the gospel also were put in front of a choice to be made, either to be prosecuted or to choose the side of the GreekRoman culture and to be able to continue and to have power in their own groups.

All had to know that the truth creates “sides” – the for-it side, and the against-it side; and between these two sides there is no neutral ground. Throughout history, there has been that battle-ground. For centuries there have been those who followed those who brought in the human doctrine of the Trinity and those who preferred following Jesus his words and believing and appreciating what he really had done (giving himself to follow not his will but God’s Will and giving his life for the sins of others).

“He that is not for me”,

said Jesus,

“is against me”;

and he styled himself

“The Truth.”

If we are for the truth, we cannot encamp with the enemy, and cooperate with them, warned brother Thomas. As the apostles also warned their followers, brother Thomas also said:

“Being for the truth, it will place us in the minority, and identify us with those who suffer tribulation for the truth’s sake.
He that runs with the hare, but holds with the hounds, will never save the fugitive from being worried to death.”

There were men in the days of Jesus who would preach his doctrine, and not speak lightly of him, but would also carefully avoid identification with his unsavory name. This is referable to the pride of life, love of popularity, or to some other equally unworthy thing. It is certainly a course not prompted by a devotion to the truth, or a love of righteousness. (Brother John Thomas;  Herald of the Kingdom and Age to Come; 1852/53 pg 286)

The apostle already noticing several false human teachings entering their communities asked to come together and organised a first church council, which set the precedent for all subsequent meetings, which took place at Jerusalem about 50 C.E. and was attended by the apostles, who debated whether Goyim or Gentile believers wanted to join the Christian community were obliged to follow the Mosaic Law. Regional councils of bishops, convoked to settle doctrinal and disciplinary questions, appeared in the 2nd century.

Some preachers wanted to gain popularity and adopted those hearsays and gave their followers the opportunity to keep their human traditions. From the Gospel of St. John several people understood that the word would not be a noun but a person and that this person would be one and the same in God as in Jesus.

By the years developed the idea which purports that God would exist in three coequal and coeternal elements — God the Father, god the Son, and God the Holy Spirit (which became a creed in later centuries). Those preachers could convince their followers that these “persons” as constituted by their mutual relations, would be either one essence “being”, being a Father, or a male deity, whilst for others, it could be a female being or mother god, a great earth mother goddess, or some created next to the male deity a mother god as a separate being and/or a mother of God called Mary.

Most of them found that Jesus speaking of a relation of mutual giving and love with the Father, would mean that he being in union with his Father, should have to be that heavenly Father as well. Such union with that Father could be enjoyed through the Spirit and as such the Spirit had to be an other but equal part of the deity.

Lots of discussions went on for centuries, but already soon in our system of things, in our contemporary era the Roman leaders wanted the Jewish sect on their site to have a stronger hold against the other Jews. To bring those teachers in line with Roman tradition Constantine the Great wanted to help them when they would agree with his Roman traditions. Only by giving in to the emperor Constantine his wishes he granted tolerance to Christians within the Roman Empire. For this a meeting of bishops from various sees — especially from the eastern part of the empire — and other leaders was ordered to consider and rule on questions of doctrine, administration, discipline, and other matters. The first ecumenical council of the Christian church, meeting in ancient Nicaea (now İznik, Turkey). At it, all those teachers with different ideas could bring forth their doctrinal conflicts, and could order rules on practical matters (such as jurisdictional and institutional).

As time passed several people wanted to give Jesus a higher place and could not come to see that ‘god’ or ‘allah‘  was a title denoting a person or thing of higher position. As such angels (celestial beings) were called gods, but also Moses, Pharaoh, Apollos, Zeus, Hada, Mercury, Mars, Hyperion, Baäal (Baal) and many others were called gods, though they like Tamuz were not the God of gods.

In the 3rd and early 4th centuries, against Sabellianism and Arianism, the Son and Father were defined as distinct yet coequal and coeternal. In the late 4th century, as a revision by the First Council of Constantinople (381) of the creed adopted at Nicaea in 325, the Cappadocian Fathers took the final step by understanding the Holy Spirit as of the same status. God was then to be spoken of as one ousia (being) in three hypostases (persons), and this has remained the orthodox formulation.

The Athanasian Creed was probably composed, not by Athanasius himself, but by an unknown author(s) in the fifth century. It is a partial statement of doctrine dealing especially with the Trinity and the Incarnation. (The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.; 2015)

About the “objective reality” or the ‘substance’ of the characters Jehovah and Jesus, the hypostases, as opposed to illusion (as in Aristotle), and ‘basis’ or ‘confidence’ (as in Hebrews 3. 14), is discussed a lot and heavily. In Christian writings until the 4th century it was also used interchangeably with ousia, ‘being’ or ‘substantial reality’. The term also came to mean ‘individual reality’ hence ‘person’. It was in this sense that it was enshrined, under the influence of the Cappadocian fathers, in the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity as ‘three hypostases in one ousia’. (The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions; 1997; John Bowker)

Arius portré.jpg
Arius (Aryus; 250 or 256–336) Christian presbyter and ascetic of Libyan birth, possibly of Berber extraction, and priest in Alexandria, Egypt, of the church of the Baucalis, whose teachings about the nature of the Godhead, which emphasized the Father’s divinity over the Son, and his opposition to what would become the dominant Christology, Homoousian Christology, made him a primary topic of the First Council of Nicea, convened by Roman Emperor Constantine in 325 CE.
Swedenborgian cross.PNG
The New Church (or Swedenborgianism)

In the 3rd century came to exist what they called the Arian system the son of God could be called ‘god’, but only as a courtesy title; he was created (not begotten) by the Father, and he achieved his divine status by his perfect obedience to him. As a creature, it must be said of Christ ēn pote hote ouk ēn (a famous slogan),

‘there was once when he was not’.

The chief proponent of the doctrine was the Alexandrian priest Arius (c.250–c.336) who began criticizing the Trinitarian views of Bishop Alexander, accusing him of Sabellianism (an early heresy which did not distinguish clearly between the “Persons” of the Trinity, where God is said to have three “faces” or “masks” (Greek πρόσωπα prosopa; Latin personae), a more developed and less naive form of Modalistic Monarchianism; propounded by Sabellius (fl. c. 217–c. 220), who was possibly a presbyter in Rome. But when Arius explained his position, he caused greater alarm with his own views, and soon he was condemned and exiled from his diocese.
The Monarchians, in their concern for the divine monarchy (the absolute unity and indivisibility of God), denied that a permanent distinction (“Persons”) within the Godhead was ultimate or permanent. Sabellius evidently taught that the Godhead is a monad, expressing itself in three operations: as Father, in creation; as Son, in redemption; and as Holy Spirit, in sanctification. Pope Calixtus was at first inclined to be sympathetic to Sabellius’ teaching but later condemned it and excommunicated Sabellius. (Encyclopaedia Brittanica on Sabellianism)
At the time of the Reformation, Sabellianism was reformulated by Michael Servetus, a Spanish theologian and physician, to the effect that Christ and the Holy Spirit are merely representative forms of the one Godhead, the Father. In the 18th century, Emanuel Swedenborg, a Swedish mystical philosopher and scientist, also taught this doctrine, as did his disciples, who founded the New Church.

Icon depicting the Emperor Constantine, accompanied by the bishops of the First Council of Nicaea (325), holding the Niceno–Constantinopolitan Creed of 381. The Nicene Creed or the Creed of Nicaea is used to refer to the original version adopted at the First Council of Nicaea (325), to the revised version adopted by the First Council of Constantinople (381), to the Latin version that includes the phrase “Deum de Deo” and “Filioque”, and to the Armenian version, which does not include “and from the Son”, but does include “God from God” and many other phrases.

Throughout the Arian controversy the charge was levelled at the supporters of Nicene orthodoxy (those who accepted the doctrine of the Trinity set forth in the Nicene Creed), whose emphasis on the unity of substance of Father and Son was interpreted by Arians to mean that the orthodox denied any personal distinctions within the Godhead. About 375 the heresy was renewed at Neocaesarea and was attacked by Basil the Great. In Spain Priscillian seems to have enunciated a doctrine of the divine unity in Sabellian terms.

The Nicene Creed, also called Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed, became for many Christians their statement of faith, which for them can only be the only ecumenical creed because it is accepted as authoritative by the Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, and major Protestant churches. but they forget that not all protestant churches take the Nicene creed as their creed.

Often it is wrongly called “The Apostles” creed or considered a quite similar creed as the Athanasian creeds, which should be (according to lots of Christians) accepted by all Christian churches but is not.

Until the early 20th century, it was universally assumed that the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed (the more accurate term) was an enlarged version of the Creed of Nicaea, which was promulgated at the Council of Nicaea (325). It was further assumed that this enlargement had been carried out at the Council of Constantinople (381) with the object of bringing the Creed of Nicaea up to date in regard to heresies about the Incarnation and the Holy Spirit that had risen since the Council of Nicaea. (Encyclopaedia Britannica on the Nicene Creed)

By now, additional discoveries of documents in the 20th century, indicated that the situation was more complex, and the actual development of the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed has been the subject of scholarly dispute. You could say that the discussions about the creed and about the Trinity never stopped. Today it is still a big issue and can get some Christians very heated.

Oldest extant manuscript of the Nicene Creed, or a profession of faith widely used in Christian liturgy, dated to the 5th Century

Throughout the ages there have been different baptismal creeds converts had to agree too by different denominations which had all their own peculiarities.
The Nicene Creed as many know it today is most likely issued by the Council of Constantinople even though this fact was first explicitly stated at the Council of Chalcedon, the fourth ecumenical council of the Christian Church, in 451. that council convoked by the emperor Marcian, was attended by about 520 bishops or their representatives and was the largest and best-documented of the early councils. It approved the creed of Nicaea (325), the creed of Constantinople (381; subsequently known as the Nicene Creed), two letters of Cyril against Nestorius, which insisted on the unity of divine and human persons in Christ, and the Tome of Pope Leo I confirming two distinct natures in Christ and rejecting the Monophysite doctrine that Jesus Christ’s nature remains altogether divine and not human even though he has taken on an earthly and human body with its cycle of birth, life, and death.
For the Monophysites there was only one, divine nature rather than two natures, divine and human, as asserted at the Council of Chalcedon in 451.

In the development of the doctrine of the person of Christ during the 4th, 5th, and 6th centuries, several divergent traditions had arisen. Chalcedon adopted a decree declaring that Christ was to be

“acknowledged in two natures, without being mixed, transmuted, divided, or separated.”

This formulation was directed in part against the Nestorian doctrine — that the two natures in Christ had remained separate and that they were in effect two persons — and in part against the theologically unsophisticated position of the monk Eutyches, who had been condemned in 448 for teaching that, after the Incarnation, Christ had only one nature and that, therefore, the humanity of the incarnate Christ was not of the same substance as that of other human beings.

Political and ecclesiastical rivalries as well as theology played a role in the decision of Chalcedon to depose and excommunicate the patriarch of Alexandria, Dioscorus (d. 454). The church that supported Dioscorus and insisted that his teaching was consistent with the orthodox doctrine of St. Cyril of Alexandria was labeled monophysite. (Encyclopaedia Britannica on the topic monophysite)

All the early councils wanted to give the church a more stable institutional character and to create a church where more people could find themselves at ease not having to do away with their local traditions.

Having the character Jeshua his name transposed into Issou or Jesus (Hail Zeus) and allowing figurines or graven statues to be sold to believers, made the Roman economy thrive again and made the Roman leaders satisfied there could be again peace between the followers of that Nazarene and the other people in the Roman Empire.

For the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed creed, which was probably based on a baptismal creed already in existence,  the leaders formulated an independent document and not an enlargement of the Creed of Nicaea.

Lots of Christians consider their creed as the faith how it was from the time of Jesus. They should know that Jesus and his apostle were believing Jews, who worshipped only One True God Who is One. None of the prophets ever believed that their God would have been a Trinity.

Christendom did know different schools of thoughts. Not all of them have Hellenistic influences like the Nicene Creed. Edessa and Nisibis [now Urfa (Sanliurfa) and Nusaybin in Souteast Turkey] were creative centres of Christian literature. The chief glory of Edessene Christianity was Ephaem (c.306-373), the classic writer of the Syrian Church, who established his school of theology there when Nisibis, its original home and his birthplace, was ceded to Persia under the peace treaty of 363, after the death of Julian the apostate. In his lifetime Ephraem had a reputation as a brilliant preacher, commenter, controversialist and above all, sacred poet. His exegesis shows Antiochen tendencies, but as a theologian he championed Nicene orthodoxy and attacked Arianism. His hymns, many in his favourite seven-syllable metre, deal with such themes as the Nativity, the Epiphany, and the Crucifixion, or else as directed against sceptics and heretics.

The Church of the East, founded in Parthian- and Sasanian-ruled Assyria (Athura/Assuristan) between the 1st and 3rd centuries, also known as the Nestorian Church, is a Christian church within the Syriac tradition of Eastern Christianity. It was the Christian church of the Sasanian Empire, and quickly spread widely through Asia. Between the 9th and 14th centuries it was the world’s largest Christian church in terms of geographical extent, with dioceses stretching from the Mediterranean Sea to China and India. Several modern churches claim continuity with the historical Church of the East. From its peak of geographical extent, the church experienced a rapid period of decline starting in the 14th century, due in large part to outside influences. In the 16th century, the Church of the East underwent a schism from which three distinct churches eventually emerged: the modern Assyrian Church of the East, the Ancient Church of the East (which split from the former over reforms such as the use of the Gregorian Calendar), and the Chaldean Catholic Church, an Eastern Catholic Church in communion with the Holy See which split from the Assyrian church between the late 16th and late 17th centuries. – Nestorian priests in a procession on Palm Sunday, in a 7th- or 8th-century wall painting from a Nestorian church in Tang China

Narses (d.c.503) another eminent Edessene writer became one of the formative theologians of the Nestorian church, though closed by emperor Zeno in 489 got offshoots which flourished for more than 200 years. Philoxenus of Mabbug, who had studied at Edessa in the 2nd half of the 5th century was a vehement advocate of Monophytism and revised the Syriac translation of the Bible (the so-called Philoxenian version) and which was used by the Syrian Monophytes in the 6th century.

From about 428 onward Christology became an increasingly urgent subject of debate in the East, and exited interest in the West as well.
By this time the idea about John’s opening of his gospel had aroused so many debates they thought it necessary to bring a council together.

Among Alexandrian theologians the “Word-flesh” approach was preferred, according to which the Word had assumed human flesh at a so-called incarnation. The denial of Christ’s possession of a human soul or mind was at hand. Some ignored it, others denied it, and others were convinced Jesus had human brains, flesh and blood. Antiochene theologians, on the other hand, consistently upheld the “Word-man” approach, according to which the Word (though a noun, became a personal being) had united ‘himself’ (instead of ‘itself’) to a complete man. This position ran the risk, unless carefully handled, of so separating the divinity and the humanity as to imperil Christ’s unity.

John Cassian.jpeg
Saint John Cassian (c. 360 – 435 CE), John the Ascetic, or John Cassian the Roman, a Christian monk and theologian celebrated in both the Western and Eastern Churches for his mystical writings and being noted for his role in bringing the ideas and practices of Christian monasticism to the early medieval West.

Theodoret of Cyrrhus, Proclus of Constantinople and John Cassian prepared the way for or contributed to the Chalcedonian solution, where a formula was hammered out that at time seemed acceptable to most and that attempted to do justice to the insights of both traditions.

Those who did not want to give in and accept those human teachings were considered heretics, like many Christians still judge other true Christians today.

The so-called Filioque clause (Latin filioque, “and from the son”), inserted after the words “the Holy Spirit . . . who proceedeth from the Father,” was gradually introduced as part of the creed in the Western Church, beginning in the 6th century. It was probably finally accepted by the papacy in the 11th century. It has been retained by the Roman Catholic, Anglican, and Protestant churches. The Eastern churches have always rejected it because they consider it theological error and an unauthorized addition to a venerable document.

The Nicene Creed was originally written in Greek. Its principal liturgical use is in the Eucharist in the West and in both Baptism and the Eucharist in the East. A modern English version of the text is as follows:

We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, one in Being with the Father.

Through him all things were made.

For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man.

For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered, died, and was buried.

On the third day he rose again in fulfillment of the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated on the right hand of the Father.

He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son.

With the Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified.

He has spoken through the Prophets.

We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.

We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.

We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Saint Thomas Aquinas was one of the great Western scholars of the Medieval period.

The Nicene creed was adapted in the Western Church since the 9th century with the addition of the Filioque clause:

“And in the Holy Ghost … Who proceedeth from the Father and the Son … .” ( “qui ex Patre Filioque procedit … .” ).

Over this addition there has been a long controversy between the Orthodox Eastern and Roman Catholic churches. The Nicene Creed is a traditionally authoritative creed of Orthodox Eastern, Roman Catholic, and some Protestant churches.

The Orthodox church recognizes seven ecumenical councilsNicaea I (325), Constantinople I (381), Ephesus (431), Chalcedon (451), Constantinople II (553), Constantinople III (680–681), and Nicaea II (787)—but considers that the decrees of several other later councils also reflect the same original faith (e.g., the councils of Constantinople that endorsed the theology of St. Gregory Palamas in the 14th century).

It should be noted at the outset that most of the texts used as “proof” of the Trinity actually mention only two persons, not three; so even if the Trinitarian explanation of the texts were correct, these would not prove that the Bible teaches the Trinity.

McClintock and Strong’s Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature, though advocating the Trinity doctrine, acknowledges regarding Matthew 28:18-20:

“This text, however, taken by itself, would not prove decisively either the personality of the three subjects mentioned, or their equality or divinity.” (1981 reprint, Vol. X, p. 552) Regarding other texts that also mention the three together, this Cyclopedia admits that, taken by themselves, they are “insufficient” to prove the Trinity. (Compare 1 Timothy 5:21, where God and Christ and the angels are mentioned together.) (Reasoning, WBTS; p 405-426)

The Trinity is commemorated liturgically in the Western Church on Trinity Sunday. Those who  do reject the Trinity are mostly considered to belong to Unitarianism.

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