The Trinity - A Doctrine Overdue for Extinction; Part 3

"Trinity Proof Texts Considered"

Ted Whitten


Regardless of the vast number of clear scriptures that demonstrate that Jesus Christ was the "Son of God", and the total absence throughout God's Word of the phrase "God the Son", it can't be overlooked that there are still a number of verses which people often cling to as constituting proof of the Trinity doctrine. At this point we'll be giving these verses a second look and examining them carefully, to see whether they might honestly be interpreted in a different light.

Before we begin, it's worth mentioning that in biblical exegesis, when seeming contradictions arise because many clear scriptures on a subject exist alongside but a few difficult ones, the few should not be allowed to take presidence at the expense of the many. Instead, it's more prudent to re-examine the few, to see if there isn't a way they might fit in after all with what the many clear passages on the subject are saying. We have already seen a multitude of very clear verses showing us that Jesus is God's son, a begotten, inferior and distinct individual, and there are even so many more which could be cited, so let's now have a look at the seemingly contradictory passages and see what might have been overlooked or misunderstood about them.

There could be no more appropriate place to start than what I think constitutes the heart of almost any trinitarian's argument - the first chapter of the gospel of John. The first fourteen verses are the bulk of what's usually cited, so I will quote that section here in its entirety for the reader to review.

John 1:1-14
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word
was with God, and the Word was God.
The same was in the beginning with God.
All things were made by Him; and without him
was not anything made that was made.
In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
And the light shineth in darkness; and the
darkness comprehended it not.
There was a man sent from God, whose name
was John.
The same came for a witness, to bear witness
of the Light, that all men through him might
believe.
He was not that Light, but was sent to bear
witness of that Light.
That was the true Light, which lighteth every
man that cometh into the world.
He was in the world, and the world was made
by him, and the world knew him not.
He came unto his own, and his own recieved
him not.
But as many as recieved him, to them gave he
power to become the sons of God, even to
them that believe on his name:
Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will
of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt
among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory
as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of
grace and truth.

It is usually asserted that the term "the Word", as used here, is a title used exclusively of Jesus Christ, and that as we read these verses we could just as well insert "Jesus Christ" wherever we see "the Word". If this is accepted as the strict truth, then I would readily grant that this section seems to teach that Jesus pre-existed his birth (Though still not proof that he was the eternal creator God). Obviously it's clear that in verse fourteen "the Word became flesh" must refer to Jesus' birth, but does that mean that the phrase "the Word" throughout this chapter is synonymous with Jesus Christ, and has no further or wider, more inclusive meaning? Certainly not. Jesus Christ was simply one form that God's "Word", his communication to mankind, has taken.

The "Word" (Greek: logos) represents the outward expression of God's invisible thoughts. Whatever form God gives it, it is the manifestation of God's truth - His will, His plans, His intentions, indeed His very heart. Jesus Christ is accurately called "the Word in the flesh" because he is God's communication to mankind in the form of a man. As explained in chapter 1, he taught only the true God's doctrine, not his own (John 7:16) and always did His father's will (John 5:30), therefore he "declared" the invisible God to the world (John 1:18). I must mention here a few more oft-cited trinity proofs that are properly understood in this light.

Collossians 1:15
Who [Christ] is the image of the invisible God,
the firstborn of every creature:

Hebrews 1:3a
Who [Christ] being the brightness of his [God's]
glory, and the express image [Gr. charakter
"stamp","impression"] of his person...

Philippians 2:6a
Who [Christ] being in the form [same Greek
word as "image"] of God, thought it not robbery
to be equal with God [More accurately: "did not
think equality with God something to be grabbed,
or robbed" (as Lucifer did - Isaiah 14:12-14)].

The above verses have often been cited as evidence that Christ was God, but when we read them in this context we can see that they all reflect this same truth, that Jesus was God's most recent and most perfect communication of Himself to mankind. As Paul writes to the Hebrews...

Hebrews 1:1,2a
God, who at sundry times and in divers
manners spake in time past unto the fathers
by the prophets,
Hath in these last days spoken unto us by
his son, whom he hath appointed heir of
all things...

What other forms has the Word taken? For starters, there is the "written" Word of God - what we now call the Bible. Then there's the "spoken" Word of God, that is, God's Word as spoken through the lips of God's prophets. Much of this was probably never written down, for it was intended specifically for its direct hearers. And like this, there is the Word of God which can be recieved by any Christian through direct "revelation" via the holy spirit, also called "Word of Knowledge" and "Word of Wisdom" (I Corinthians 12:7,8). Again also, there is the Word which was "written by God in the stars" as he set them all in their places during the creation week (Genesis 1:14, Psalm 19:1-6,147:4). The science and art of accurately reading this form of God's Word seems to have been lost over the generations and perverted into modern "astrology", but this is nonetheless another example of one of the various forms God's Word has taken.

Therefore, when we read John chapter 1, and read "Word" when God says "Word", and "Jesus" when God says "Jesus", I think you'll see that while this is indeed a beautiful section of scripture, overflowing with truth, it does not teach that Jesus was the eternal creator God, as many have said.

As a side note, incidentally, the Greek word translated as "him" in John 1:3,4, can also be translated "it", depending on the context, and was translated just this way in English Bibles prior to the King James Version.

Concerning Christ creating, or at least being involved in the creation, let me now touch upon a few other misunderstod verses along these lines.

Hebrews 1:2
[God] Hath in these last days spoken unto us
by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of
all things, by whom also he made the worlds.

In the above verse, the Greek word "aion" is incorrectly translated "worlds". The word actually indicates a period of time, and is better translated "ages". In addition, the word "by" can also be translated "for", and this is the more accurate rendering, both here, and also in a similar "sister verse", I Corinthians 8:6.

Genesis 1:26a
And God said, Let us make man in our image,
after our likeness:

The common claim to be made about this verse during discussions of the Trinity, is that the words "us" and "our", since they are in the plural form, are proof-positive that Jesus was with God at creation. However, this is very easily explained in light of the figure of speech "Heterosis". The figure "Heterosis" is used when "the singular noun, which is true to fact, is exchanged for the plural form to denote great excellence or magesty." Monarchs of almost every continent and generation have used it when speaking of themselves in their official position, and even today the Queen of England does the same. It's hardly surprising that the Almighty God should make use of it on occassion as well. [Note: For another example of this idiom being used in scripture, see Genesis 29:27]

Consider this as well. If these few instances where God uses a plural pronoun in referring to Himself (four at most, throughout the entire Bible), are to be offered up as proof that God is a plurality of persons, are not the many hundreds of singular pronouns which are used in reference to God, equally admissable as proof that God is one? Certainly they are, and do these not far outweigh the few?

Speaking of plurality, there's something else I'd like to address. Behind the English word "God" in scripture there are many different different Hebrew and Greek words. One of these, the word "elohim", is in the plural form, and it is often said that this proves there is more than one person in the Godhead. It most assuredly does not, by any stretch of the imagination. First of all, it is truly noteworthy that the Jewish people, those unarguably most familiar with their own language, never came to this conclusion. Second, in numerous places of the Bible the word "elohim" is applied to others, who are certainly not "trinities" or "plural beings". For example:

Moses
Exodus 7:1a
And the Lord said unto Moses, See, I have
made thee a god [elohim] to Pharoah:

Chemosh
Judges 11:24
Wilt not thou possess that which Chemosh
thy god [elohim] giveth thee to possess?

Even the pagan god Dagon
I Samuel 5:7b
...for his hand is sore upon us, and upon Dagon
our god [elohim].

So, was Christ "with" God during or prior to creation? Actually the correct answer would be "yes" if you want to get specific. "Yes, he was, in the same way that you and I were with God - in his foreknowledge, as part of God's plan."

I Peter 1:20
Who [Christ] verily was foreordained
[Greek word "proginosko" - "Foreknown"]
before the foundation of the world, but was
manifest in these last times for you.

Ephesians 1:4
According as he hath chosen us in him before
the foundation of the world, that we should
be holy and without blame before him in love:

I realize that some of my readers might at this point be running some other verses through their minds, which they feel can be cited as evidence that Jesus Christ had a conscious pre-existence before his birth. Some of these may seem unquestionable to you. I know this was once the case for me. However, I am now fully confidant that each of them can be explained in better way, and would like to try to show you why I can say this. Almost all of these are in the gospel of John, and the king of them all is probably John 8:58.

John 8:56-59
Your Father Abraham rejoiced to see my day:
and he saw it, and was glad.
Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not
yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?
Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto
you, Before Abraham was, I am.

To understand what Jesus means in verse 58 you must examine the immediate context, most specifically, verse 56. That's why I have quoted it for you this way. As Jesus was explaining, Abraham had the comfort of seeing the coming day of the Messiah through prophecy, and for this reason rejoiced and was glad. Jesus' listeners, were very confused (what else is new?) and thought Jesus was saying that he had actually been with Abraham. It was not Christ himself, who had been with Abraham, but rather, the promise of the Messiah, which had been given "before Abraham was".

In addition, some versions render Jesus' words "Before Abraham was, I am he" (i.e. the Messiah). There is good exegetical reason to approve this rendering of the Greek, and the word "he" is included in the translation of several other passages where the "I am" appears in the Greek. In other words, Jesus was saying "I was the eternally appointed Messiah even before Abraham."

John 17:5
And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine
own self with the glory which I had with thee
before the world was.

Here again, the verse is best understood in terms of Jesus' glory in God's eternal plan. It is not uncommon for God, and Christ, to speak proleptically - that is, to speak of future things as if they had already happened; things are spoken of as "given" which, although they are "laid up" for one in God's plan, they're not yet literally recieved. You'll recall that we've already seen one example of this, in John 3:13. Some other examples would be:

The Land promised to Abram
Genesis 15:18
In the same day the Lord made a covenant with
Abram saying, Unto thy seed have I given this
land, from the river of Egypt unto the great
river, the river Euphrates.

Putting all things in subjection to Christ
John 3:35
The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all
things into his hand.

...as well as Hebrews 2:8
Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet.
For in that he put all in subjection under him,
he left nothing that is not put under him. But now
we see not yet all things put under him.

The same can be said of God's gift of grace to us
II Timothy 1:9
Who [God] hath saved us, and called us with
an holy calling, not according to our works, but
according to his own purpose and grace, which
was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.

In this same way, in John 17:5 Jesus speaks of that glory which is to come, as if he had already literally recieved it "before the world was". Christ knew very well all that was prophesied of him (See Luke 24:27), and desperately desires that glory which he knows has been laid up, prepared, reserved for him in God's eternal plan.

Frequently, in John's gospel primarily, but also elsewhere, we see phraseology which to many, on the surface seems to imply that Jesus was in heaven prior to his birth. For example, it is said that he "was sent", that he "came down from heaven", or that he "came into the world". But these terms are not actually used this way in truth.

John 4:34
Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the
will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.

Galations 4:4
But when the fulness of the time was come,
God sent forth his Son, made of a woman,
made under the law,

When it is said that Jesus was "sent by God", it does not mean that he was up in heaven until God "sent" him down, for Jesus was not the only one said to have been sent by God. Also there was:

John the baptist, in John 1:6
There was a man sent from God, whose name
was John.

And in just the same way as Christ was sent, he said he has sent us.
John 17:18
As thou hast sent me into the world, even so
I also sent them into the world.

Neither John the baptist, or You or I, were actually there in heaven before our birth, so there is no valid reason to extrapolate from this wording that Christ was either. To have been "sent" simply means, in this context, that one has been "chosen and commissioned to perform a special task for God."

Next, when it is said that Jesus "came down from heaven", this too does not mean that Christ pre-existed in heaven.

John 3:13
And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but
he that came down from heaven, even the Son
of man, which is in heaven.

John 6:33
For the bread of God is he which cometh down
from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.

I would ask the reader to compare these with the following verses. /P>

John 6:31
Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it
is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat.

James 1:17
Every good and every perfect gift is from
above, and cometh down from the Father of
lights, with whom is no variableness, neither
shadow of turning.

Clearly, when it is said that Jesus "came down from heaven", this simply means then, that he was a miraculous gift, given to us by God, which indeed he was.

The third phrase I mentioned was "came into the world".

John 6:14
Then those men, when they had seen the
miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth
that prophet that should come into the world.

John 9:39a
And Jesus said, For judgment I am come into
this world...

John 11:27
She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that
thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which
should come into the world.

But in John's terminology, to "come into the world" simply means to be born.

John 18:37b
...Jesus answered, Thou sayest that I am a king.
To this end was I born, and for this cause
came I into the world, that I should bare
witness unto the truth...

Therefore, every man is said to have "come into the world", not because we all were hanging around in heaven before we decided to be born, but simply because we were all born. The same is true of Jesus Christ.

John 1:9
That was the true Light, which lighteth every
man that cometh into the world.

As some will eagerly point out, there are verses, though only a few, which apply the term "God" (or "god") to Christ, and which do not, to our knowledge, contain any forgery or translation errors. These are...

John 10:33
The Jews answered him, saying, For a good
work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy;
and because that thou, being a man, makest
thyself God.

John 20:28
And Thomas answered and said unto him,
My Lord and my God.

Hebrews 1:8
But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God,
is for ever and ever: a sceptre of
righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.

Isaiah 9:6
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is
given: and the government shall be upon his
shoulder: and his name shall be called
Wonderful, Councellor, The Mighty God, The
everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

I would like remind the reader, for starters, that in the original Hebrew and Aramaic scriptures there were no "upper-case" or "lower-case" letters. Capitalization, just like the punctuation and chapter and verse markings, was added later, and inserted entirely at the discretion of the translators, when and where they felt it was appropriate. As such, their placement was not "God-breathed", and, as might be expected - since humans were involved - mistakes were occasionally made. So in our examples here, although these verses read "God", which is commonly understood when capitalized to refer to THE Almighty God, we are left with the possibility that "god" (or "a god" etc.) could be a better rendering, and that someone other than the Almighty God is being so addressed.

I'm sure you can see where I am going with this. A man in a greatly exalted position can be called a "god", or addressed as "god". But is this a stretch? Is there really any foundation for this in scripture? Please stay with me on this.

Let's go back to John 10:33. What is the context here? In verse 29, Jesus had just told the Judean listeners that his Father was "greater" than he was. You'll remember that we saw in chapter 1 of our study that this alone is a clear contradiction if Jesus were claiming to be God, part of a "co-equal" trinity. Then Jesus states that nevertheless, he and God are united in their efforts or purpose (more on this verse later). The Judeans then prepared to stone Jesus for "blasphemy". How did Jesus respond? Did he say "Yes, you're right. I am God"? To the contrary, he takes this opportunity to make a pointed and clear denial of this very thing.

John 10:34-36
Jesus answered them, Is it not written in
your law [NOTE: He refers here to the Old
Testament], I said, Ye are gods?
If he called them gods, unto whom the word
of god came, and the scripture cannot be broken;
Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified,
and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest;
because I said I am the Son of God?

The listeners were very confused, and did not understand what Jesus was really saying. They might have thought he was claiming to be God (Though if this were the case, they more likely would have just thought him insane and left him alone), or maybe it was blasphemy in their eyes for Jesus even to claim to be "a god". Regardless of which rendering we choose, Jesus sets them straight in sharp clear words. "I said I am the SON OF GOD." (Note: We know from Matthew 26:62-66 that even this claim was considered a blasphemy worthy of the death penalty) And he refers them also to a section of scripture. Specifically:

Psalm 82:6
I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are
children of the most High.

Although Jesus never actually used the term 'god' in speaking of himself, since the Judeans accused him of this claim, he felt it necessary to point out to them that it was not unscriptural for men to be called 'gods'. And if other men, unto whom the word of God came, were called 'gods' by God himself, would the term be any less fit for God's very messiah? This was his argument.

As you can see, when more closely examined, this section is not any kind of proof that Jesus was God at all, but simply that he was a man highly exalted by God, and as such, as Jesus pointed out, a man worthy of being called a god, if anyone would so choose to do. With this in mind, I believe that this was likely the manner in which Thomas used the term when he, after seeing that Christ had overcome death, in his awe and excitement made his famous declaration in John 20:28, how Isaiah prophetically refers to Christ in Isaian 9:6, and also how the proud Father God used the term in referring to his resurrected son in Hebrews 1:8.

In a few verses, particularly in the gospel of Matthew, Jesus Christ is given "worship". This fact is frequently pointed out as a proof that Jesus must have been God, for "surely" they say, "God alone should be worshipped". But is this argument water-tight? First let's read some of the verses in question.

Matthew 2:11
And when they were come into the house,
they saw the young child with Mary his mother,
and fell down and worshipped him: and when
they had opened their treasures, they presented
unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.

Matthew 8:2
And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped
him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make
me clean.

Matthew 14:33
Then they that were in the ship came and
worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art
the Son of God.

Hebrews 1:6
And again, when he bringeth in the first
begotten into the world, he saith, And let all
the angels of God worship him.

In today's language, we understand the term "worship" only in reference to kind of reverence that one pays in religious service to a god, but in the Bible times it was quite different. In all of the above verses, "worship" is a form of the Greek verb "proskuneo", which literally means "to pay homage to". If we "proskuneo" someone, is it an indication that we believe they are God? Not necessarily. This worship is given to God in certain places in scripture, but it's also given to various human persons.

David, the king of Israel
I Chronicles 29:20
And David said to all the congregation, Now
bless the Lord your God. And all the
congregation blessed the Lord God of their
fathers, and bowed down their heads, and
worshipped the Lord, and the king.

Daniel
Daniel 2:46
Then the king Nebuchadnezzar fell upon
his face, and worshipped Daniel, and
commanded that they should offer an
oblation and sweet odours unto him.

Peter
Acts 10:25
And as Peter was coming in, Cornelius met
him, and fell down at his feet, and worshipped
him.

And even all Christians
Revelation 3:9
Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of
Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not,
but do lie; behold, I will make them come and
worship before thy feet, and to know that I
have loved thee.

This worship is simply the homage which a subject would pay to one of royalty, who is considered to be of a dignity greater than his own. Jesus was not worshipped as God, but rather, as the Messiah. There is another Greek word translated worship, "latreuo", and this worship is reserved for God alone, for it is only used of the Father in scripture. Never once is latreuo given to Jesus or anyone else.

As promised in Part 2, I'll now come back to John 10:30, which we passed over only briefly before. This is another very commonly cited 'Jesus is God' proof text, though as you'll clearly see, it really provides no support to the Trinitarian's defense whatsoever.

John 10:30
I and my Father are one.

To say that this verse is an example of Jesus claiming to be God is truly a horrible abuse of scripture, and only demonstrates that the person making the claim is either dishonest, or disgracefully ignorant of basic exegetical method. When read in the full context of John's gospel it is abundantly clear that Jesus did not mean "one in number", or "one and the same being", but simply that they are one in purpose, or united in their goals.

John 17:11,20-22
And now I am no more in the world, but
these are in the world, and I come to thee.
Holy Father, keep through thine own name
those whom thou hast 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 thou Father, art
in me, and I in thee, that they also may be
one in us: that the world may believe that
thou hast sent me.
And the glory which thou gavest me I have
given them; that they may be one, even as
we are one:

So if, from John 10:30 we must deduce that Jesus is God, then from the above passages we must logically also conclude that we too are God! The Greek word in these verses, however, is "hen", which means "one in purpose." If it were meant to convey that Jesus and God (and all Christians) were one and the same being, the Greek word would have been "heis". For that matter, among others, both Jesus himself, and Paul the apostle make it clear that numerically Jesus and his Father were two.

John 8:17,18
It is also written in your law, that the
testimony of two men is true.
I am one that bear witness of myself, and the
Father that sent me beareth witness of me.

I Corinthians 8:6
But to us there is but one God, the Father,
of whom are all things, and we in him;
and one Lord Jesus Christ, by ["for"] whom
are all things, and we by him.

Jesus Christ had to be a man, otherwise we could not be redeemed. Sin had entered the world through the disobedience of the first man, Adam. So it was to be another man, the second Adam, who would pay the price for this and all other sin. To meet the law's requirement as set forth by God, the Passover sacrifice for sin would have to be a lamb from among the flock (Exodus 12:5), a condition God himself could never meet.

Early prophecies confirmed that the Messiah would be a man, and not God himself.

Deuteronomy 18:15
The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a
Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy
brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall
hearken.

The sacrifice also would have to be "without blemish". Unlike all other men since Adam, who have been born "dead in trespasses and sins" (Ephesians 2:1), God was able to bring Jesus Christ into the world sinless, by inseminating the virgin Mary through an act of divine creation in her womb, thereby giving Jesus pure and sinless blood (Luke 1:35). Then, through faith and obedience, Christ led a sinless life by his own choice, even unto the horrible death of the cross.

In summation, Jesus Christ is a man, and God's only begotten Son. He was born the "lamb of God" to be our Passover sacrifice, and shed his blood, so that you and I could have forgiveness and remission of our sins, and life forever in the coming age. He is our redeemer and our saviour, our high priest and our heavenly mediator with God. But he was not, and is not "very God of very God" the creator, the Almighty and eternal Father God.

The Bible is clear. After so many centuries, the doctrine of the Trinity is a doctrine overdue for extinction.



Trinity Proof Texts / Last updated 3-20-03