Muslims say the doctrine of trinity is a post-Jesus invention



The word “trinity” is not found in the Bible.

1. What Muslims say

The term “trinity” was not used in the Bible even once. It was Tertullian (AD 160 – 220) who coined this term.

2. What Christians say

We don’t reject a doctrine just because the modern term for that doctrine is not found in the Bible. We need to consider whether the doctrine, whatever its name is, is taught by Jesus.

The word “quran” not in the quran.

In Islam there is a term called “Tauhid” (or “Tawhid”) that is fundamental to their concept of God. The dictionary of Islam defines this word as “a term used to express the unity of the Godhead, which is the great fundamental basis of the religion of Muhammad. Yet this word is not found even once in the Quran.

Those who lived before Jesus knew nothing of the trinity.

1. What Muslims say

The peoples from Adam to Moses had no concept of trinity. If God is indeed triune, it would have been necessary for all the prophets before Jesus to explain this to the people. This is even more important when one considers that Christians believe it is necessary to believe in the trinity of God before one can obtain salvation.

From the Book of Genesis to that of Malachi, all the prophets have in unfaltering tones declared the Unity of God. The Jews are a witness that they were never taught the Doctrine of Trinity

2. What Christians say

Muslims are right in saying that it is necessary to believe in the doctrine of trinity to obtain salvation. But this is only necessary after it has been revealed. The Bible mentions many Old Testament men of God none of whom knows of the trinity explicitly. Therefore belief in the trinity was not essential for salvation during the Old Testament times.

Old testament teaching about trinity
Introduction

The Old Testament is not totally silent on the trinity. Nevertheless, it is correct to say that teachings about God’s Son and the Holy Spirit were developed only much more in the New Testament.

Jesus in Psalms 2:7

Yet the Old Testament is not entirely silent about the other persons of the trinity. For example, God, in the Old Testament, already revealed that He has a son.

(Psa 2:7) I will proclaim the decree of the LORD: He said to me, “You are my Son ; today I have become your Father.

The disciples of Jesus understood this Old Testament reference to be referring to Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. (Acts 13:33).

Muslim response

Psa 2:7 refers to King David, the writer of the Psalms and not Jesus.

In Acts 13:33, Jesus’ disciples have wrongly attributed this verse to Jesus.

The Bible also contains possible references to the Holy Spirit.

(Gen 1:1-2) In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. {2} Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

Muslim response

The Spirit of God refers to God’s spirit, not another person of a triune God.

The ancient one from Bethlehem

(Micah 5:2 NIV)  “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.”

Emmanuel (God with us)

In Isa.7:14, we read,

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”

Isaiah then goes on to write in chapter 9,

“[…] in the future he (God) will honor Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan the people walking in darkness have seen a great light, on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned […] For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne […] from that time on and forever.”

The fact that the Messiah was not going to be just a prophet but Mighty God himself, was therefore a truth that had been prophesied seven hundred years before Christ in the Old Testament, and not something that had been made up by Christians many years or centuries after Christ! It was God’s own promise that he will come in flesh (Immanuel = God with us) and will establish a kingdom that will last forever.

 

Other early Christians do not believe in the trinity.

1. What Muslims say

Many early Christians believed that Jesus is not God. One example is Hermas, an early Christian, who wrote The Shepherd. The first chapter of that book talks about the unity of God.

“First of all believe that God is One, and that He created all things and organized them, and out of what did not exist made all things to be, and He contains all things but Alone is Himself uncontained.”

2. What Christians say

Don’t over-interpret what early Christians say.

The Shepherd by Hermas states that God is One. All Christians, in fact, believe that their triune God is one. And that “one”, as used to describe God, allows for more than one persons to be in the Godhead. Therefore one should not read about a declaration by an early Christian that God is one to mean that that person does not believe in a triune God.

It is inevitable that some will not believe in the trinity.

It would be significant if we can prove that no one believed in the trinity of God until a late date and that the teaching was a new invention of some Church Council. But it would be of no significance to show that some people in the early Church days did not believe in the trinity of God. Of course there will be people who did not believe. Even now, there will be many people who do not believe in Islam, but that cannot be used to prove that Islam is not the true religion.

It can be seen below that some people did believe in the trinity, including the Bible writers themselves.

The Biblical writers believed that Jesus is God.
John believed that Jesus is God

(John 1:1, 14) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 14 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.

We know that John believed Jesus is God because he said that 1) the Word was God and 2) Jesus is that Word.

The Word was God

The Word was God

(John 1:1 NIV)  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

There should be a difference between God and the Word of God

Christian reply

In the Quran, there is a difference but not in John chapter 1. He tells us that the Word was God.

(John 1:1 NIV)  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word *was* God.

The word is not “God”; it is only the divine word of God.

The verse should be interpreted as the Word being divine and not the Word is God.

(John 1:1 NIV)  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (Greek : theos).

The word “theos” can be an adjective meaning “divine”. The same word is used of Moses as “exceeding” fair or “divinely” fair.

(Acts 7:20 KJV)  In which time Moses was born, and was *exceeding* fair, and nourished up in his father’s house three months:

Christian reply

The word “theos” in Acts 7:20 has been translated as “exceeding” or “divinely” in some translations. However it may be just simply a description of Moses as “god” in the sense that he is “messenger of God”.

(John 10:34-35 NIV)  Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are gods’? {35} If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came–and the Scripture cannot be broken–

And we know that this term was specifically applied to Moses whom the Bible says was like a god unto Pharaoh because he communicated God’s word to him.

(Exo 7:1 NIV)  Then the LORD said to Moses, “See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron will be your prophet.

The word “theos” is a word used to describe “God” or “god”. It is not used as an adjective to mean “divine”. There is another word for “divine” which is derived from the root word “theos”. That word is “theios” and can be found in these verses.

(2 Pet 1:3 NIV)  His *divine* power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.

(2 Pet 1:4 NIV)  Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the *divine* nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

John had a wrong understanding of Jesus

Christian reply

Are you implying that John wrote wrongly and his teachings are not consistent with Jesus’?

Don’t Muslims believe that the disciples of Jesus are true Muslims? (Al-Imran 3:52, al-Ma’idah 5:111, Saff 61:14) Would he write something that is not in accordance with Jesus’ teachings?

If John is not a disciple of Christ, then there is no need to discuss the detailed meaning of the passage. We only discuss interpretation of the passage on the premise that John wrote correctly but Christian interpretation is wrong.

Jesus is called God in the sense that he is the messenger of God and the Bible refers to messengers of God as “gods”.

Biblical meaning of “god”

It is used as in the John 10:34 where the Word of God passed through His judges and they are referred to as “gods” (Greek “theos”).

Christian reply

I have earlier shown that the Word refers to Jesus and not to the impersonal speech of God. If that is the case, this is how the verses will read.

(John 1:1-3 NIV)  In the beginning was Jesus, and Jesus was with God, and Jesus was God. {2} Jesus was with God in the beginning. {3} Through Jesus all things were made; without Jesus nothing was made that has been made.

Can we understand the title God that was used to describe Jesus to mean just a messenger of God’s revelation like we see in John 10:34?

Can we say a messenger of God existed in the beginning with God and through whom everything was made? Surely this kind of description refers only to God almighty and not a messenger of God.

The “word” is “a god” and not “God”.

(John 1:1)  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God (“hotheos” in Greek), and the Word was God(“tontheos” in Greek).

Here the verse clearly says that the Word was God.

Muslim reply

Muslims, however, say that when the verse says that the Word (ie Jesus) was God, it uses the Greek word “tontheos” which should mean only “a god” and not “God” which would have to use the Greek word “hotheos”.

But the use of “tontheos” instead of “hotheos” does not mean that the Word is a lesser god or supernatural being. God the Father was described using both the word “hotheos” and “tontheos” in the following verse.

(Luke 20:37-38)  But in the account of the bush, even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord ‘the God (“hotheos” in Greek) of Abraham, and the God (“hotheos” in Greek) of Isaac, and the God (“hotheos” in Greek) of Jacob.’ {38} He is not the God (“tontheos” in Greek) of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.”

Therefore, to determine whether the verse refers to “God” or “a lesser god” one has to look at the context. Clearly we know that in the following verse, the devil is depicted as a lesser supernatural being than God.

(2 Corinthians 4:4)  The god (“tontheos” in Greek) of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers…

The word is not “God” but “God’s”

“And ye are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s” 1 Cor 3:23

Thus John 1:1 should be “…Word was God’s”.

Christian response

There is a difference between God (John 1:1) and God’s (1 Cor 3:23). God is “theos” in Greek whereas God’s is “theou” in Greek.

Even if Jesus is the word of God, it does not mean that he is God.

Jesus is referred to in the Quran as the Word of God and also denied deity.

Christian reply

That is true. But that is the Quran. It is not the teaching of the Bible. To put the Quranic meaning into the Word of John 1 is not possible because it clearly says that the Word is God and the Word is Jesus.

Jesus fit the description of God as everything was created through Him.

Muslim reply

He might be speaking about the creative power of God of which some was placed in Jesus.

(John 1:3 NIV)  Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.

The verse says that ALL things were made through Jesus. There was NOTHING that was made without Jesus’ involvement.

Jesus is that Word

Arguments for

The word became flesh

John was not referring to words of Allah. He was referring to a person who actually lived on earth in flesh and blood.

{14} The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory….

Muslim reply

The expression “word became flesh” is to be interpreted metaphorically.

When the Bible says that the Word became flesh, it was not referring to God coming down in the form of man. It was speaking metaphorically. It means that it was transmitted through humans.

Christian reply

Even if you interpret this metaphorically, there are other evidences that point to the Word being Jesus.

The word was referred to as the one and only Son and Jesus is that one and only Son

(John 1:14 NIV)  The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

(John 1:18 NIV)  No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.

Jesus declared himself to be that one and only Son.

(John 3:16 NIV)  “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

The word refers to a person who was testified to by John the Baptist and that person is Jesus

{15} John testifies concerning him (ie the Word). He cries out, saying, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.'” …

In verse 15, John testifies about the Word and said that the Word would surpass him because the Word was before him. In verse 28, John looked at Jesus and said that Jesus is that man he was talking about, who would surpass him.

{29} The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! {30} This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’

The word was described as being full of grace and mercy and this exact description was given to Jesus

(John 1:14 NIV)  The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

The Word was described as being full of grace and truth and only few sentences later it was stated clearly that this grace and truth came in the form of Jesus Christ.

{17} For the law was given through Moses; *grace and truth came through Jesus Christ*.

Arguments against

Jesus is not the only begotten because the verse says “the glory as of (not of) the only begotten” of the Father.

(John 1:14 KJV)  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.

The Word’s glory is the glory “as of” the only begotten of the Father, and not “of” the only begotten of the Father.

Christian reply

We have already seen that Jesus is the only the begotten Son of the Father (John 3:16). Therefore the logic of this argument is : Since the Word is not the only begotten of the Father, the Word is not Jesus.

This interpretation is not correct. The word translated “as of” in the KJV of John 1:14 is the Greek word “hos”. This word is used for comparison purposes. It is used to say that something is like something. That is all it says. It does not mean that the Word is like Jesus but it is actually NOT Jesus. Let’s see the New Testament usage of the word “hos”.

(Mat 14:3-5 KJV)  For Herod had laid hold on John, and bound him, and put him in prison for Herodias’ sake, his brother Philip’s wife. {4} For John said unto him, It is not lawful for thee to have her. {5} And when he would have put him to death, he feared the multitude, because they counted him *as* (Greek : hos) a prophet.

Does the verse want to say that John is not a prophet but is one that the people counted like a prophet? No. Even Muslims believe that John the Baptist is a prophet. Jesus also declared that John is a prophet (Matt 11:7-9).

The word cannot refer to Jesus because he only speaks what God wants him to speak.

Muslims believe that the word in John 1 refers to the saying of God. Since Jesus did not do or speak of himself but what God instructed. (John 6:38, 57, 7:16, 8:28, 10:37-38, 12:49), he cannot be that word of God.

He is only the speaker or transmitter of that word.

Christian reply

Because whatever Jesus says is 100% in accordance with what God the Father wants to say, he is described as the Word of God.

Similarly in the Quran Jesus is referred to as the word of God because he teaches what Allah wants to teach.

If Muslims have no difficulty in accepting the term word for Jesus in the Quran, they should not be surprised that in the Bible, Jesus is also referred to as the word.

The “only begotten one” refers to the Holy Spirit.

Christian reply

As to what “as of” means, I think I have addressed that.

The only begotten refers to the Word. Agreed.

The only begotten refers to the Spirit? No. Can you show me where the term only begotten is used of the Spirit?

The term only begotten son of God refers to Jesus as can be seen from the following verse.

(John 1:17-18 KJV)  For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by *Jesus Christ*. {18} No man hath seen God at any time; *the only begotten Son*, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.

The only begotten is used with the word son. Pse refer to the two verses above. The Spirit is never described as the son. Only Jesus is.

John did not believe Jesus is God because he says no one has seen God.

(John 1:18 KJV)  No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.

Christian reply

John is referring to God the Father and that no one has seen Him at any time.

(John 1:1 NIV)  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Right at the start of the book, John clarifies that he believes in God the Father as well as in God the Word (referring to Jesus).

Jesus is described as the Word of God in the Quran

Jesus the creator

The power to create life is the exclusive province of God according to the quran. None except God can create. In one passage the quran challenging the idolators reminds them that their idols cannot create:

Those unto whom they cry beside God created nothing but are themselves created. (Sura 16:20. Also, 35:40)

To make the point more pointed the quran goes on to say:

O mankind! a similitude is coined, so pay ye heed to it: Lo! those on whom ye call beside God will never create a fly though combine together for this purpose. And if the fly took something from them, they could not rescue it from it. (Sura 22:73)

Yet the Bible teaches that everything was created through Jesus.

(John 1:1 NIV)  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

 

Paul believed that Jesus is God

Likewise, Paul, an early Christian, also believed that Jesus is God.

Paul says in Philippians 2:5,6 “Christ Jesus, who though he was in the form of God, did not consider equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of man.”

Colossians 2:9 “For in Christ all the fullness of the deity lives in the bodily form.”

(Rom 9:5 NIV)  Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.

 

Writer of Hebrews believed in the trinity

(Heb 1:8-9 NIV)  But about the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom. {9} You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy.”

The Biblical writers also believed in the deity of the Holy Spirit.

He is called God (Acts 5:3-4), he is omniscient (I Cor 2:10-11), his name appears along with the Father and Son in Christian benedictions (2 Cor 13:14).

The early Church Fathers also believed in Jesus’ deity.

Polycarp (AD 69-155), who was the bishop of Smyrna, wrote : “Now may the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the eternal High Priest Himself, the God Jesus Christ, build you up in faith….”

Ignatius (died AD 110), who was head of the church at Antioch, in his Epistle to the Ephesians, wrote of Christ as “Our God, Jesus Christ.” In another letter to Polycarp, Ignatius admonished him to “await Him that is above every season, the Eternal, the Invisible, who became visible for our sake.…who suffered for our sake.”

Iraneus (AD 125 – 200), a disciple of Polycarp, also believed that Jesus is God. He believed that it was Jesus the God who appeared to Moses in the burning bush. Iraneus also believed that God spoke with the other two persons in the Godhead during the creation of the world. He said : “For with Him were always present the Word and Wisdom, the Son and the Spirit, by whom and in whom, freely and spontaneously also He speaks, saying Let us make man after our image and likeness.”

Justin Matyr (AD 110 – 166) said : “I have often said, often enough, that when My God says, ‘God went up from Abraham,’ or ‘the Lord spake unto Moses,’ and ‘the Lord came down to see the tower which the sons of men had built,’ or ‘God shut Noah within the Ark,’ you must not imagine the unbegotten God himself went down or went up anywhere. For the ineffable Father and Lord of all neither comes anywhere, nor walks, nor sleeps, nor rises up.” Abraham and Isaac and Jacob saw not the ineffable Lord, but God, His Son.”

Tertullian (AD 160 – 220) said “the one trinity consists of three persons of one substance.”

The denial of Jesus’ deity is in fact a later doctrine.

The earliest record of a “Christian” denying the deity of Christ did not occur until AD 190 when a Byzantine leather merchant by the name of Theodotus, referring to his denial of Christ, said, “I have not denied God, but a man.”

Then it was not until AD 318 – 320 when a presbyter from Alexandria by the name of Arius denied the deity of Christ, that the question became a major theological issue within the Church.

 The Council of Nicea did not invent the doctrine of trinity.

The Nicene Creed, formulated in AD 325, was the first formal definition of the trinity. It states, “We believe in one God, father almighty, maker of all things, both visible and invisible. And in one lord, Jesus Christ, the son of God, begotten from the father, only-begotten, that is from the being of the father, God from God, light from light, true God from True God, begotten not made, one in being with the father…”

Yet it was only a formal definition. The concept of trinity did not begin from this point as seen from the examples above that show that even before this time, the Church was already entrenched in the belief that Jesus is also God.

The question deliberated at the Council of Nicea was not even whether Jesus was God or not? It was whether Jesus was God equal to the Father or God but inferior to the Father. Even the heretics at that time like Arius and his followers believed that Jesus was not mere man, and that he was pre-existent with God and is the creator of the world. In other words, they believed Jesus is God but inferior to the Father God.

For those who are interested, this is what the Nicene Creed states.

We believe in one God, father almighty, maker of all things, both visible and invisible. And in one lord, Jesus Christ, the son of God, begotten from the father, only-begotten, that is from the being of the father, God from God, light from light, true God from True God, begotten not made, one in being with the father, through whom all things came to be, both those in heaven and those on the earth, who because of us human beings and because of our salvation descended, became enfleshed, became human, suffered and rose on the third day, ascending to the heavens, coming to judge the living and dead. And in the Holy Spirit. The catholic and apostolic Church anathematizes those who say: there was when he was not; and before being born he was not; or that he came to be from things that are not; or that the Son of God is from a different hypostasis or ousia or mutable or changeable.

Verses that teach the trinity have been interpolated.

1. What Muslims say

The verse that teaches the doctrine of trinity has been found to be an interpolation (ie later insertion, not found in the original writings).

For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost : and these three are one. (1 John 5:17)

2. What Christians say

Muslims are correct in saying that this verse is a later insertion and should not be considered authentic.

If the whole doctrine of trinity were to be based on one verse alone, Christians should rightfully discard it. Yet it is not. The doctrine of trinity is based on a consistent interpretation of the teachings in the Bible with regards to the deity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and the existence of one God. Therefore the removal of one interpolated verse does nothing to undermine the doctrine of trinity.

Paul’s teachings concerning the doctrine of trinity should be rejected.

In the mind of Muslims, Paul taught concepts that are different from what Jesus taught. Therefore, teachings of Paul should be rejected.

It is beyond the scope of this article to reconcile the teaching of Jesus and Paul. Therefore, I will leave this for another time and, for this article, just use proofs of the doctrine of trinity from the teachings of Jesus alone.

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