Understanding the Trinity
What is the Biblical proof for the Trinity – God being three in one? There are numerous passages in the Bible that hint at the Trinity – the great ‘I am’ saying in John’s gospel where Jesus uses the sacred name of Yahweh to describe himself and scenes such as St Peter saying ‘You are the Christ, the Holy Son of God’ in answer to Jesus’ question over who the disciples thought him to be. But these sayings are unclear, circumstantial, open to interpretation. The word ‘Christ’ didn’t mean then what it does now and being a Son of God was an honour shared by Kings and wise men. The stories and phrases in the New Testament that attest to Jesus having divine attributes certainly don’t describe the Trinity as it came to be understood where God is three persons, of equal nature, consubstantial, coeternal, of one Being. No where in the Bible does. Apart from one place 1 John 5 7. And this monumental passage reads ‘ For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.’
This verse alone is the only place where the Trinity is formulated in a recognisable, unambiguous way. And it is almost certainly wrong.
Leuven 1516 and Erasmus is changing Biblical scholarship. For centuries the Western world had been following the Latin vulgate version of the Bible, largely translated by Jerome in the 4th century. But Erasmus taught himself Greek – borrowing money from friends and family to do so. And when he was sufficiently fluent he went back to the earliest Greek Manuscripts and translated them all over again, remaining true to the earlier manuscripts when errors had occurred in the Vulgate, copied over the previous 1000 years by men who were ‘half taught and half asleep’. And lo and behold – what did he find? The all-important Trinitarian text – the so called Johanine comma – was not there in the Greek. Not anywhere. He just couldn’t find it in all the manuscripts he consulted, so Erasmus, being Erasmus left it out. The resulting edition caused a furore and the great man hastily re-inserted it for his 3rd edition published in 1522 but the debate had started and it has raged ever since. In 1927 the Catholic Church officially cast doubt on the authenticity of the Johanine comma and most modern editions of the Bible now leave it out.
So when your students are debating the development of the Trinity they should be informed about this fascinating nugget. The Trinity is not nearly as clear as everyone assumes it is and it is almost certainly not Biblical doctrine.