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The first one to ever propose a polytheistic doctrine was none other than Satan himself in the garden of Eden. There, after Eve recited God's command prohibiting eating of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and bad, Satan countered the woman, saying that by eating it, "you will be like God, knowing good and bad." (Genesis 3:1-4 [par|int]) Since then, polytheism has abounded, including triune gods and their humanoid avatars, incarnations and bodily appearances, even declaring humans to be equal to God.
The teaching on triune Gods comes out of the nations, and originates with the Babylonian trinity of Astarte (Ashtoreth/Ishtar; Mother of God), Dagon (Chemosh; The All Father), and Tammuz (Milcom; The Sun God), whose symbol happened to be the cross. (It is also interesting to note that the Greek sun god, Adonis, whom Constantine worshiped, was also part of his own triune set of gods, and even had the symbol of a cross within a circle.) (1 Kings 11:33 [par|int]) You may also recognize this trinity as Isis, Ra, and Osiris, who used the ankh cross.
The first one to ever name the nominal Christian Trinity and put it into a (Sabellian) modalist doctrinal formula was Tertullian in 215 C.E. (A.D.) with the Latin "Trinitas". (Trinitarians today try unsuccessfully to avoid modalism.) He even derogatorily referred to those who could not reconcile the dichotomies of the three are one doctrine in their minds as "the simple". (Today, that arrogant attitude abounds in all Trinitarian sects that preach that Jesus is God.) Similarly, many years earlier, the Pharisees said of the disciples of Christ that they were "uneducated and ordinary" (That is, not having been to the rabbinic schools; Acts 4:13 [par|int]) However, Psalm 119:130 [par|int] says, "The disclosure of your words brings light, giving understanding to the inexperienced." And Jesus himself said, "You [God] have hidden these things from the wise and intellectual ones and have revealed them to babes." (Matthew 11:25 [par|int]) Thus, none of the truth God has revealed is too great for "babes" to grasp, and is, in fact, too simple for the intellectuals to grasp because they expect God to be complicated for being beyond our understanding.
In the fourth century, a conflict had arisen between the followers of Arius, which upheld that Christ was a created being, and the followers of Athenasius, who espoused a formula of the Trinity, though the holy spirit was not yet personified. Enter: Constantine.
Constantine was a religious pluralist who did not care about individual doctrine, but sought only to resolve conflicts of religious ideas so as not to jeopardize his kingdom. Realizing the conflict between the two creeds would soon rip his kingdom apart, Constantine called the first Council of Nicaea in 325 C.E. to resolve the matter of the Son's relationship to the Father. Athenasius himself was called to preside over the council, indicating which direction the Emperor wanted the proceedings to go. Seeking to influence the outcome, only about a dozen supporters of Arius' creed were called forth though there were hundreds known in the kingdom, while more than 300 others called to Nicaea were supporters of Athenasius. The Catholics thus canonized the Binity under the forceful influence of the non-Christian Constantine. Overawed by the presence of Constantine, several of the Arians acquiesced. The two who refused to sign the agreement were immediately expelled. But expelling them did not silence them, but eventually all opponents of the doctrine were hunted down and killed and their writings and copies of the scriptures burned.
It was not until the Council of Constantinople in 381 C.E. that the holy spirit was asserted to be a distinct personage in the Trinity. The next year, the Latin Vulgate was published with many spurious renderings supporting the Trinity doctrine. The brutal campaign against dissenters of the Trinity doctrine ignited and people were put to death if they did not accept the Trinity. Scrolls not containing the additions in the Vulgate, and scrolls containing God's name were burned en masse until none were left. Those holding to the non-Trinitarian heresy were subjected to all manner of unmentionable tortures now made famous by the dungeons of the later Spanish Inquisition. By the 6th century, the Trinity was all but universally accepted.
That militant destructive religion, (What most non-religious people today would unanimously define as a destructive "cult"), prevailed in the Trinity dogma by means of forced conversions, claims that "reasoning is evil", burning literature, imprisonment, torture and burning people alive. These were the founding fathers of the Trinity doctrine. Are we to understand that these ones who very clearly did not have God's holy spirit through Christ somehow had more knowledge about God than first century Christians who had both Christ and the holy spirit? People judge us as a cult simply because we reject that doctrine, yet we have never killed, tortured or imprisoned anyone, nor burned literature or forced anyone to convert, nor any other such destructive behavior. But it has certainly been visited upon us in the last century by some of the very same ones who call us a "cult". We have endured beatings, bombings, slaughters, conflagrations, beheadings, tar and featherings, lynchings, rapes and tortures by various implements, even by one's own families, in the last century simply because we refused to accept the Trinity and the cross. And that’s just in the United States in the last century. The same has occurred against us throughout the world.
Later, the Protestant reformation occurred, in which many began to reject unscriptural Catholic teachings. However, despite rejecting unbiblical teachings and dreaming up some unbiblical teachings of their own, most of these sects continued to worship a Trinity. Others reformulated the Trinity so that Christ was no longer asserted to be the true God, but still called them a "Trinity" in order not to be assaulted on the issue, so that their adherents claim a "Trinity" but have no idea what they're talking about. Others accept that the Father and the Son are the same, but that the holy spirit is not a distinct being in a Trinity, thus professing a Binity instead.
Its Absence in Biblical HistoryIf the Trinity doctrine were true and God wanted us to understand it, there would surely have been a statement recorded in the Bible with clarity and precision. (2 Timothy 3:16, 17 [par|int]) If Jesus were God, he would have certainly left no room for ambiguity. The apostles would not have left the issue ambiguous, with no treatment, when they spent so much time explaining the meaning of Christ's death, grace (undeserved kindness), apostasy, brotherly love and speaking in tongues.
So if all this direct, pin-point attention was given to other issues, and such consistency and forcefulness given to Christ being the "Son of God", how is it that not one word was ever written in defense of the Trinity or to Jesus being God in the days of the apostles? How is it that not one challenge was ever lodged against these concepts by first century Jews? In fact, on two occasions the Jews tried accusing Jesus of claiming to set himself in competition with God, (John 5:18 [par|int]; 10:33 [par|int]) and Jesus refuted the accusations on both occasions, not by claiming that he is God, but by claiming that he was dependent upon God (John 5:19 [par|int]) and then quoting a scripture to show that human judges were also called "gods", indicating that there is no competition with God in doing so. (John 10:34-36 [par|int])
Given its conflict with Jewish tradition, the Trinity would have needed substantial defense. The Jews were looking for every pretext against Christians they could muster, yet we're expected to accept that they completely ignored the divinity of Christ or the manifestation of holy spirit? If it was so hard to get the Jews to let go of the Law, would it not have been a far greater struggle to get them to accept a Trinity/Binity? The Greeks referred to Christians as blasphemous monotheists without any mention of a triad or Jesus being God. Even Josephus, a first century non-Christian Jew who lived from 37 C.E. to 100 C.E., and the most respected historical scholar of the day, who wrote much about first century Christians, made no mention or implication of their believing that Jesus is God.
The historical record is well-documented about how the doctrine developed piecemeal after the closing of the Bible canon, as I explained above, and with much resistance in non-canonical post-apostolic writings from the second to fourth centuries. There arose in those days much controversy, division and persecution over the doctrine, but none at all in the days of the apostles. During the post-apostolic period, the foretold apostasy was taking place, which was evident by Christendom's involvement in political affairs of the day, just as today. (Acts 20:29, 30 [par|int]; 2 Thessalonians 2:6-12 [par|int])
This fact must also be considered: Given that this doctrine is the central and overriding tenet by which many churches of Christendom claim to define Christianity, it should be expected that it would also have been declared with such force by the apostles, but not one word is uttered from them to that effect. Neither progressive revelation nor oral tradition can account for this absence. If Jesus is God, the apostles would have been completely absorbed in that fact. Their total attention would have been consumed by it and their writings overflowing with it just as with modern Trinitarian writings. But their writings are completely devoid of any such consideration.
Certainly, the apostles, the ones sent forth from the person of Jesus Christ himself, who were instructed by him and had direct and intimate association with him would have made this known as foremost in their writings. In fact, the Jews were "entrusted with the sacred pronouncements of God," (Romans 3:1, 2 [par|int]) and spirit-anointed Christians were entrusted with the good news, (1 Thessalonians 2:4 [par|int]) and yet no mention of a Trinity in any of their writings.
So, now, many reformist Christian sects who pride themselves on their distinction from Catholicism claim the Trinity or Binity to be the sole saving tenet of Christianity, declaring you cannot be saved unless you accept that the Father and Jesus are two parts of the same "Godhead" when no such demand is made in the Scriptures. ("Godhead" is borrowed from Hinduism, to sound like multiple beings in one 'head' or leader.) But any Bible scholar will tell you that the first century Christians had no comprehension of Christ as God, as is attested by its ratification only after centuries of development.
The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, which gives clear support to the Trinity, confirms its absence in the Biblical record, acknowledging: "Although early Christian theologians speculated in many ways on the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, no one clearly and fully asserted the doctrine of the Trinity." If neither Christ himself nor his apostles ever asserted the Trinity doctrine, why should we be forced to accept it as the sole saving tenet of Christianity? The scriptures lay out the salvation message and it is in no way dependent upon belief in a Trinity. Regardless of what organization restates the history of their Trinity in their own revisionist view, the dating of its ratification always centers upon the councils of Nicaea and Constantinople in the fourth century, 3 centuries after Christ.
Pages discussing this history: The Surprising Origins of the Trinity Doctrine
An Appeal to Trinitarian Christians
Identifying Father, Son and Holy Spirit .
Start at Part 1
Go to Part 3: What Do Jehovah's Witnesses Believe About God and Jesus?