(© Ed Torrence 2002)
The Trinity doctrine is not unique to, nor original with, Christianity. It has deep Pagan roots, dating back to at least two centuries BC, and has been prominent in many Eastern religions ever since.
The Roman Catholic and Orthodox Church Councils (Western and Eastern churches) brought the Trinity doctrine into Christianity. This occurred before there was a final split between the two over authority. Even those who voted the idea into Roman Catholic dogma declared it was a mystery that had to be accepted by faith. The theologians that wrote the Catholic Encyclopedia admit that there is no Old Testament indication of a triune God, and very little in the New Testament that can be construed that way. They also admit that it was a product of tradition that evolved over four centuries. The RCC gives equal credence to tradition and scripture. In this case tradition is almost the whole criteria for this dogma, aside from a few scriptures that are wrenched out of context and misinterpreted, trying to give the idea legitimacy.
The evolution of this doctrine within Christianity began with The Apostle’s Creed, progressed to the Nicene Creed, and finally culminated in the Athanasian Creed. Click on the links below to read more about them.
The Apostle’s Creed which was not written by the Apostles at all, but by the RCC. While this simple statement of faith had nothing to say about a Trinity, or even hint that Jesus was God, it laid the groundwork for further expansion, and was modified several times over the years.
The Nicene Creed established in 325 AD, was the next step. At the insistence of the Roman emperor, Constantine, and for the purpose of establishing unity between Christianity and Pagan beliefs, Jesus was declared to be coequal, coeternal, and consubstantial with God. This established, Constantine made Christianity the state religion of the Roman Empire. Before Constantine’s rule the Christians suffered much persecution at the hands of Rome.
The Athanasian Creed espouses the Trinitarian concepts of Athanasius, a fourth century theologian. The time of its original writing is not known, nor is its author. Most historians agree that it was probably composed in the fifth century, though some claim it may have been as late as the ninth century. Even the Catholic Encyclopedia is vague about its origin.
The Christian Church’s roots were originally from Judaism, which was, and still is, a monotheistic (One-God) religion. There is no belief in a polytheistic (Plural) God in the Old Testament. On the contrary, OT scriptures declare the singleness of God.
Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me.
For thus saith the LORD that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is none else.
The Nicene and Athenian creeds are in direct denial of these scriptures as well as many others. First, they had to declare that Jesus was God, and that he was eternal–which also contradicts scripture.
God is not a man that he should lie, neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? Or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?
Jesus was a man; and he referred to himself as the Son of Man many times.
I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.
Jesus was begotten, (born) at a point in time, according to the Jewish prophecies. The Athanasian Creed also states that Jesus was God incarnated. This contradicts scripture also, because God does not change.
For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.
If there is no scriptural basis for the doctrine of a triune God, then from whence did this idea come?
Rome, the seat of emperors for the Roman Empire and the power base of political popes, was heavily influenced by the philosophy and paganism of the former Grecian Empire, which took in much more territory than the Roman Empire ever achieved. Greek literature, sociology, religion, and superstitions played a great part in the formation of Roman government, philosophy, and religion. Therefore, it is no wonder that the Romans incorporated much of their custom and culture into Christianity, just as the Jewish believers did in Jerusalem.
When the Apostle Paul was in Athens he observed, among the worshippers of many pagan gods, an altar to the Unknown God. He took advantage of their superstitions to preach to them of the one true God. Among these people were Epicureans and Stoics philosophers who were amazed at Paul’s preaching of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Up until the rule of Emperor Constantine, the Christians of the Roman Empire were persecuted. Constantine, however, in the early fourth century saw a chance to help restore the former glory of the Empire by bringing about religious unity. In exchange for the cooperation of the Roman Christian Bishops he made Christianity the official state religion. However, this came at great cost to the true gospel of Jesus Christ. From this time forward Christianity became a mixture of the Christian faith and Paganism.
One of the most common beliefs among Pagan cultures was in a trinity of gods. We find this among the Egyptians, Indians (of India), Japanese, Sumarians, Chaldeans, and of course, the Babylonians, to where historians trace the roots of trinitarism.
Church history shows a gradual assimilation of Pagan ideas into Christianity, brought about mostly by the Roman or Western Church, which became a political/religious extension of the Roman Empire. Foremost among the pagan ideas was the adoption of the trinity doctrine into the dogma of the church. Pagan holidays (holy days) were also incorporated into tradition by “Christianizing” them, thus we end up with Christmas being celebrated on Dec 25th; Easter, which combined the resurrection of Christ with the pagan goddess Ester, and Halloween combined with All Saint’s Day.
In time, the political power of the Roman Popes and the wealth they controlled exceeded that of the Emperors, and the Church became a Monarchy with power over kings and nations. Religious tolerance went out the door, and the Church embarked on crusades and inquisitions to purge out by ex-communication, torture, war, and murder, all those who disagreed with official Church doctrine or resisted the authority of the Pope. Christ-like behavior became a thing of the past, and Jesus’ teachings neglected and changed.
The Reformation, brought about by Martin Luther, threw off the yoke of the Papists and declared justification by faith instead of salvation by obeying the Roman church. However, the Pagan doctrines and traditions of Catholicism carried over into Protestantism and remain intact to this day.
The Trinity doctrine was by no means adopted unanimously by church leaders of the day. Bitter battles ensued, and three versions of the trinity debated, as well as the non-trinity belief, until the present one was adopted. It was a vote of men that established it, not revelation from God or scriptures. Christianity had rejected the God of Abraham, Moses, and Jesus, and replaced Him with a Pagan invention. [For further study read When Jesus Became God: The Struggle to Define Christianity During the Last Days of Rome.]
[Used with permission. “Rediscovering Original Christian Theology,” Pagan Roots of Trinity Doctrine by Ed Torrence © 2002]