What Scholars Say

Trinitarian Scholars On The Trinity

The Bible does not teach the doctrine of the Trinity. Neither the word  “trinity” itself nor such language as ‘one-in-three,’  ‘three-in-one,’ one ” essence “, and three “persons” is biblical language. The language of the doctrine is the language of the ancient church taken from classical Greek philosophy.
(Professor Shirley C. Guthrie, Jr. , Christian Doctrine- pp.76-77)

Certainly, it cannot be denied that not only the word ‘Trinity’, but even the explicit idea of the Trinity is absent from the apostolic witness to the faith … We must honestly admit that the doctrine of the Trinity did not form part of the early Christian—- New Testament—- message.   
( Emil Brunner, Dogmatics , Vol.1,  p.205 )

Christianity did not destroy paganism; it adopted it. The Greek mind, dying, came to a transmigrated life in the theology and liturgy of the Church; the Greek language, having reigned for centuries over philosophy, became the vehicle of Christian literature and ritual… Christianity was the last great creation of the ancient pagan world.
(Will Durant, The Story of Civilization, vol.3, 1944)

The Church’s doctrine of the Trinity would seem to be the farthest thing from [the New Testament writers] minds and today’s reader may well wonder if it is even helpful to refer to such a dogma in order to grasp the theology of the New Testament. When the Church speaks of the doctrine of the Trinity, it refers to the specific belief that God exists eternally in three distinct ‘persons’ who are equal in deity and one in substance. In this form the doctrine is not found anywhere in the New Testament; it was not so clearly articulated until the late fourth century AD.
(Christopher B. Kaiser, The Doctrine of God, A Historical Survey, p.23)

It is claimed that the doctrine of the Trinity is a very important, crucial, and even basic doctrine. If that is indeed the case, should it not be somewhere more clearly, directly, and explicitly stated in the Bible? If this is the doctrine that especially constitutes Christianity’s uniqueness, as over against Unitarian  monotheism on the one hand, and polytheism on the other hand, how can it be only implied in the biblical revelation? In response to the complaint that a number of portions of the Bible are ambiguous or unclear, we often hear a statement something like, ‘It is the peripheral matters that are hazy or in which there seems to be conflicting biblical materials. The core beliefs are clearly and unequivocally revealed.’ This argument would appear to fail us with respect to the doctrine of the Trinity, however. For here is a seemingly crucial matter where the Scriptures do not speak loudly and clearly. Little direct response can be made to this charge. It is unlikely that any text of Scripture can be shown to teach the doctrine of the Trinity in a clear, direct, and unmistakable fashion.  (Millard Erickson, God in Three Persons: A Contemporary Interpretation of the Trinity, pp.108-109)

It is difficult in the second half of the 20th century to offer a clear, objective and straightforward account of the revelation, doctrinal evolution, and the theological elaboration of the Mystery of the Trinity … Historians of dogma and systematic theologians [recognize] that when one does speak of an unqualified Trinitarianism, one has moved from the period of Christian origins to, say, the last quadrant of the 4th century. It was only then that what might be called the definitive Trinitarian dogma ‘One God in three Persons’ became thoroughly assimilated into Christian life and thought… it was the product of three centuries of development.
( Thomas Carson, “Trinity”, The New Catholic Encyclopedia, Second Edition, vol. xiv, pg.295 )

It must be admitted by everyone who has the rudiments of an historical sense that the doctrine of the Trinity formed no part of the original message.
(Anglican theologian W.R. Matthews, God in Christian Experience, pg. 180)

Another difficulty stems from the categories used by those who worked out the doctrine of the Trinity that the church adopted. They used Greek categories such as substance, essence, and person, which had corresponding Latin concepts when translated into the forms of thinking that characterized the Eastern church. Over the years, questions have been raised regarding those concepts. One contention is that the Trinity is simply a product of those ancient Greek categories. It is not present in biblical thought, but arose when biblical thought was pressed into this foreign mold. Thus, the doctrine of the Trinity goes beyond and even distorts what the Bible says about God. It is a Greek philosophical, not a Hebraic biblical concept.
(Millard Erickson, God in Three Persons, pp. 19-20)

I cannot but think that the doctrine of the Trinity, far from being established, is open to serious criticism, because of both the modern understanding of the Scripture, and inherent confusions in it’s expression. Texts were torn from their contexts and misused to no small degree… Much of the defense of the Trinity as a revealed doctrine, is really an evasion of the objections that can be brought against it… It is not a doctrine specifically to be found in the New Testament. It is a creation of the fourth-century church.       
(Professor Cyril C. Richardson, The Doctrine of the Trinity: A Clarification of  What It Attempts to Express, pp. 16-17)

The Bible has many verses which “teach” justification, “teach” repentance, “teach” baptism, “teach” the resurrection, but not one verse in the entire Bible “teaches” the doctrine of the Trinity. No verse describes it, explains it, or defines it. When one considers just how different the Trinitarian view is from the traditional Jewish view of God, you have to ask yourself, where are all the arguments to get the Jew to change his view? Why, when the apostle Paul spends entire chapters getting the Jew to change his view of the law, isn’t there just one text to get the Jew to change his view of God? This vital, but missing piece, is the Trinity’s single biggest flaw …. The more I looked at the Trinity, the more I saw a doctrine rich in tradition, and passionately defended by brilliant and sincere people, but severely weak in reason and badly wanting in biblical support.
(Robert A. Wagoner, The Great Debate Regarding the Father, Son, & Holy Spirit, pp.88-89)

It was never the intention of the original witnesses to Christ in the New Testament to set before us an intellectual problem — that of Three Divine Persons — then to tell us silently to worship this mystery of the “Three-in- One.” There is no trace of such an idea in the New Testament. This “mysterium logicum,” the fact that God is Three and yet One, lies wholly outside the message of the Bible. [This mystery has] no connection with the message of Jesus and His Apostles. No Apostle would have dreamed of thinking that there are Three Divine Persons, whose mutual relations and paradoxical unity are beyond our understanding. No “mysterium logicum,” no intellctual paradox, no antimony of Trinity in Unity, has any place in their testimony.
(Emil Brunner, Dogmatics, Vol.1, p. 226)

The first teachers of Christianity were never charged by the Jews (who unquestionably believed in the strict unity of God), with introducing any new theory of the Godhead. Many foolish and false charges were made against Christ; but this was never alleged against him or any of his disciples. When this doctrine of three persons in one God was introduced into the church, by new converts to Christianity, it caused immense excitement for many years. Referring to this, Mosheim writes, under the fourth century, “The subject of this fatal controversy, which kindled such deplorable divisions throughout the Christian world, was the doctrine of the Three Persons in the Godhead; a doctrine which in the three preceding centuries had happily escaped the vain curiosity of human researches, and had been left undefined and undetermined by any particular set of ideas.” Would there not have been some similar commotion among the Jewish people in the time of Christ, if such a view of the Godhead had been offered to their notice, and if they had been told that without belief in this they “would perish everlastingly” ? 
(Frederic William Farrar, Early Days of Christianity, Vol. 1, p.55)

Since the author [of Hebrews] is emphasizing the continuity of the two phases of divine speech . . . this reference to a Son shows that ho theos was understood to be “God the Father.”  Similarly, the differentiation made between ho theos  as the one who speaks in both eras and huios as his final means of speaking shows that in the author’s mind it was not the Triune God of Christian theology who spoke to the forefathers by the prophets. That is to say, for the author of Hebrews (as for all NT writers, one may suggest)the God of our fathers,” Yahweh, was no other than “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (compare Acts 2:30 and 2:33; 3:13 and 3:18; 3:25 and 3:26; note also 5:30). Such a conclusion is entirely consistent with the regular NT usage of ho theos. It would be inappropriate for elohim or YHWH ever to refer to the Trinity in the OT,  when in the NT theos regularly refers to the Father alone and apparently never to the Trinity.
(Trinitarian scholar Murray Harris, Jesus As God, footnote 112 on pg. 47)

The doctrine of the Trinity is not in the Bible if read in it’s historical context. Of course, one can find references to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit in the New Testament, even together as a triad in Matthew 28:19. But the actual doctrine, which teaches that the three are different “persons” who share the same “substance” of full divinity, took centuries to be developed, elaborated, defended, and established as Christian dogma. Christian theologians might be right if they say that the doctrine is at least “hinted at” in the New Testament, and that the later church was correct in “taking” the Bible to teach the doctrine, but that is a theological position, not a strictly historical one.
(Dale Martin, New Testament History & Literature, pg. 4)

No responsible New Testament scholar would claim that the doctrine of the Trinity was taught by Jesus, or preached by the earliest Christians, or consciously held by any writer of the New Testament. It was in fact slowly worked out in the course of the first few centuries in an attempt to give an intelligible doctrine of God.
(Hanson, Anthony Tyrrell, The Image of the Invisible God, p.87.)

Scholars On The Deity Of Jesus

It is not that Jesus is God. Time and time again the fourth gospel speaks of God sending Jesus into the world. Time and time again we see Jesus praying to God. Time and time again we see Jesus unhesitatingly and unquestioningly and unconditionally accepting the will of God for himself. No where does the New Testament identify Jesus as God. He said, “He who has seen me has seen God.” There are attributes of God I do not see in Jesus. I do not see God’s omniscience in Jesus, for there are things which Jesus did not know.   
(William Barclay, The Mind of Jesus, p. 56)

New Testament scholars disagree whether the N.T. directly calls Jesus as God because of the difficulty such language would create for early Christians with a Jewish background. It is important to note that every passage that identifies Jesus as “theos” can be translated other ways or has variants that read differently.
In biblical Judaism the term “messiah” did not necessarily carry any connotation of divine status and Jews of Jesus’ day were not expecting their messiah to be other than human.
While some have used the title Son of God to denote Jesus’ deity, neither the Judaism nor the paganism of Jesus’ day understood the title in this way. Neither did the early church.
(Douglas McCready, He Came Down From Heaven: The Preexistence of Christ and the Christian Faith, pp. 51, 55, 56)

The New Testament gives no inkling of the teaching of Chalcedon. That council not only reformulated in other language the New Testament data about Jesus’ constitution, but also reconceptualized it in the light of current Greek philosophical thinking. And that reconceptualization and reformulation go well beyond the New Testament data.   
(Joseph Fitzmyer, A Christological Catechism, p. 102)

We are not to suppose that the apostles identified Christ with Jehovah; there were passages which made this impossible, for instance Psalm 110:1, Malachi 3:1.
(Charles Bigg, D.D., International Critical Commentary, p.99)

The truth is that Jewish sources never thought of Messiah as divine or pre-existent – in mainstream Judaism he is the descendant of David’s covenant in 2 Samuel 7 . . . If Jesus thought of himself as Messiah it is this human figure he had in mind, with the traditional terms “the Son of God,” “the Son of Man,” “Lord” – all used of Jewish kings in the Psalter (2:7; 80:18; 110:1; etc.) . . . Being a monotheist, Jesus cannot have thought of himself sanely as being Yahweh; and in the more primitive traditions he always speaks of himself in the human, messianic categories . . . [He did not think] he was God, but that he was God’s viceroy . . . It is the bias of orthodoxy constantly to overlook middle terms. The earliest church [did not view him] as God the Son, but as the man whom God raised up and [assigned] the Holy Spirit to pour out upon the church (Acts 2:33).
(Michael Goulder, Incarnation and Myth: The Debate Continued, p.143)

Scholars On The Influence Of Greek Philosophy On Early Christianity

Platonism is part of the vital structure of Christian theology . . . [If people would read Plotinus, who worked to reconcile Platonism with Scripture] they would understand better the real continuity between the old culture and the new religion, and they might realize the utter impossibility of excising Platonism from Christianity without tearing Christianity to pieces. The Galilean Gospel, as it proceeded from the lips of Jesus, was doubtless unaffected by Greek philosophy . . . But [early Christianity] from it’s very beginning was formed by a confluence of Jewish and Hellenic religious ideas.
(W. R. Inge, The Philosophy of Plotinus, pp. 12,14)

Towards the end of the 1st century, and during the 2nd, many learned men came over both from Judaism and paganism to Christianity. These brought with them into the Christian schools of theology their Platonic ideas and phraseology.
(James Strong, Cyclopaedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature, Vol. 10, “Trinity”, p.553)

. . . many of the early Christians, in turn, found peculiar attractions in the doctrines of Plato, and employed them as weapons for the defense and extension of Christianity, or cast the truths of Christianity in a Platonic mold. The doctrines of the Logos and the Trinity, received their shape from Greek Fathers, who… were much influenced, directly or indirectly, by the Platonic philosophy, particularly in it’s Jewish-Alexandrian form. That errors and corruptions crept into the Church from this source cannot be denied.
(Phillip Schaff, “Platonism and Christianity” in The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, Vol. IX)

The New Testament gives no inkling of the teaching of Chalcedon. That council not only reformulated in other language the New Testament data about Jesus’ constitution, but also reconceptualized it in the light of current Greek philosophical thinking. And that reconceptualization and reformulation go well beyond the New Testament data.
(Joseph Fitzmyer, A Christological Catechism, p.102)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: