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Assignment: Holy Trinity

Dr Jerry Joseph OFS

Reg no: 777
Diploma in Theology
Introduction The Dogma of Trinity

Dogma of Trinity in the Old Testament

Dogma of Trinity in the New Testament

Trinity as a Mystery


Introduction The Dogma of Trinity

The Trinity is the term employed to signify the central doctrine of the Christian religion.
The truth that in the unity of the Godhead there are Three Persons, the Father, the Son, and
the Holy Spirit, these Three Persons being truly distinct one from another.

Thus, in the words of the Athanasian Creed: "the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy
Spirit is God, and yet there are not three Gods but one God." In this Trinity of Persons the Son is
begotten of the Father by an eternal generation, and the Holy Spirit proceeds by
an eternal procession from the Father and the Son. Yet, not withstanding this difference as to
origin,the Persons are co-equal: all alike are uncreated and omnipotent. This, the Church teaches,
is the revelation regarding God's nature which Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came upon earth to
deliver to the world: and which she proposes to man as the foundation of her
whole dogmatic system.

Theology continues to employ conceptual forms of thought in probing the meaning of Trinity.
In Scripture there is as yet no single term by which the Three Divine Persons are denoted
together. The word trias is first found in Theophilus of Antioch about A.D. 180. Afterwards it
appears in its Latin form of trinitas is by Tertullian.

In the pages that follow, a comprehensive inclusion of the knowledge on the evolution of the
concepts of Trinity are discussed to the bare minimum, as it is not prudent to do so in an
assignment of this nature.

Dogma of Trinity in the Old Testament

The early Fathers were persuaded that indications of the doctrine of the Trinity must exist in
the Old Testament and they found such indications in not a few passages. Many of them not
merely believed that the Prophets had testified of it, they held that it had been made known even
to the Patriarchs. They regarded it ascertain that the Divine messenger of Genesis
16:7, 16:18, 21:17, 31:11. Israel experienced her God as the one who encountered her in the
saving events of her history. The encounter was conceived according to the model of a personal
self-introduction by means of a proper name, Yahweh, and an identifying description which
was always a saving event of Israels history accomplished by Yahweh, e.g., I am Yahweh, your
God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt (Exod 20:2).

Gods active agency in history was evocatively expressed in such stabilized, yet dynamic,
metaphors as Spirit of God, Word of God, Wisdom of God, etc., without jeopardizing
Gods unity and transcendence. The OT Spirit of God (ruach YHWH) was the very reality of
God in the creature empowering with life

In Proverbs 8, Wisdom appears personified, and in a manner which suggests that the sacred
author was not employing a mere metaphor, but had before his mind a real person (cf. verses 22,
23). Similar teaching occurs in Ecclesiasticus 24, in a discourse which Wisdom is declared to
utter in "the assembly of the Most High", i.e. in the presence of the angels. This phrase certainly
supposes Wisdom to be conceived as person. The nature of the personality is left obscure; but we
are told that the whole earth is Wisdom's Kingdom, that she finds her delight in all the works
of God, but that Israel is in a special manner her portion and her inheritance (Ecclesiasticus 24:8-

Dogma of Trinity in the New Testament

The New Testament identifies God with the Father whose reign Jesus proclaimed and who
raised him from the dead. Nevertheless, the ascription of divinity of Jesus is pervasive in the
New Testament if we do not limit the evidence to texts which explicitly call Jesus God
(theos).Pauls metaphorical description (1 Cor 15:35-53) of the resurrection body, which he
obviously associates with his experience of the risen Lord, as incorruptible (en aphtharsia),
glorious (en doxe), and powerful (en dynamei) is a subtle yet sure ascription to the risen Jesus of
characteristics associated with divinity in Hellenistic Jewish religion at that time. This Pauline
text reflects both the experiential and the eschatological nature of the earliest Christian
discernment of Jesus divinity.

The image of Sonship only gradually came to convey a firm sense of Jesus divine status in the
New Testament. Indeed, there is broad consensus among exegetes that Jesus, during his earthly
life, addressed God as Father (Abba) with a degree of intimacy not typical of Jewish tradition,
and that this reflected a profoundly personal and unique experience of God by Jesus,
undoubtedly underlying his urgent call to proclaim the in breaking of the reign of God.
Nevertheless, the title Son of God initially was confessed of Jesus in light of his Easter
exaltation, celebrated as the fulfillment of the royal messianic psalms (e.g., Ps 2 and Ps 110).

The acclamation of Jesus as Lord (Kyrios) within the worship of Greek speaking communities
which used the Septuagint version of the OT is another example of powerful yet subtle
attribution to the risen Jesus of divine status. Kyrios was used widely in the Greek Old Testament
as a divine appellative. Its double appearance in Ps 110:1, The Lord said to my Lord, in the
context of liturgical celebration of Jesus Easter exaltation was a natural poetic suggestion of
Jesus divine status. That this acclamation went beyond poetic suggestion to worshipful
confession is evident in the early hymn in Philippians 2: God highly exalted him so that at
Jesus name every knee must bend and every tongue proclaim to the glory of God the Father:
Jesus Christ is Lord! (9-11).

The most distinctive feature of Jesus self-designation is the list of I am sayings in Gospel
according to St John, seven altogether, corresponding to the seven signs. The ambiguous I am
phase goes back to the self-revelation of Yahweh in the first part of the Old Testament when God
names himself I AM in response to Moses request (Exod. 3:14). Each of those saying is
connected to its context, either a sign, a speech, or a feast:

1. I am the bread of life (6:35, 48), after multiplying the loaves.

2. I am the light of the world (8:12; 9:5), at the Feast of Booths,

in which a huge Torch is lit to give light; following the feast, Jesus
opens the eyes of a man Born blind.

3. I am the gate for the sheep (10:7).

4. I am the good shepherd (10:7).

5. I am the true vine (15:1); these three self-designations highlight the Importance of the
relationship between Jesus and his followers.

6. I am the resurrection and the life (11:25), as a response to the sisters of the Lazarus, whom
Jesus would raise from the dead.

7. I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me
(14:6), in reference to the queries of his disciples, who were confused about Jesus teaching and
future destiny.

The Holy Spirit of the New Testament is this same Spirit of God now identified as the Spirit of
Christ in the light of the Easter experience. Rom 8:9 illustrates this connection clearly: You are
not in the flesh but in the Spirit since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have
the Spirit of Christ, does not belong to him. The first use of Spirit in this textspirit
(pneuma) as opposed to flesh (sarx) is common in the Pauline and Johannine writings. A
distinctive aspect of the Johannine pneumatology is the use of the term Paraclete (parakletos) to
denote the Spirit in certain functions which as it were, compensate for the absence within the
Christian community of the physical, earthly presence of Jesus.

Divine attributes are affirmed of Holy Spirit .

1. He possesses omniscience and reveals to the Church mysteries known only to God (1
Corinthians 2:10);

2. He distributes charismata (1 Corinthians 12:11);

3. He is the giver of supernatural life (2 Corinthians 3:8);

4. He dwells in the Church and in the souls of individual men, as in His temple(Romans 8:9-
11; 1 Corinthians 3:16, 6:19).

5. The work of justification and sanctification is attributed to Him (1 Corinthians 6:11; Romans
15:16), just as in other passages the same operations are attributed to Christ (1 Corinthians
1:2; Galatians 2:17).

Trinity as a Mystery

The Second Vatican Council has explained the meaning to be attributed to the term
mystery in theology. It lays down that a mystery is a truth which we are not merely incapable of
discovering apart from Divine Revelation, but which, even when revealed, remains hidden by the
veil of faith and enveloped. In other words, our understanding of it remains only partial, even
after we have accepted it as part of the Divine message. Through analogies and types we can
form a representative concept expressive of what is revealed, but we cannot attain that
fuller knowledge.

The Second Vatican Council further defined that Christian faith contains mysteries. All
theologians admit that the doctrine of the Trinity is of all revealed truths this is the most
impenetrable to reason.


Monotheism is the central belief of all Christians. All Christians regardless of their
denominations believe that God is One. God is far beyond the ability of human intelligence and
imaginations. It is impossible to embrace God and His divine plans in a limited human sense of

Gods unique greatness and distinction from everything cannot be contained in human words.
But only one word may come anywhere near such a concept in Christian tradition and that is
LOVE; which is beyond dimensions of any known reasoning. We can speak volumes on love,
but those are mere words addressing what it may constitute, but the reality of what it is comes
from experiencing it.


The concept of Trinity that has been dealt above does not constitute even, the tip of the iceberg.
There are points of development in Trinitarian Theology that has been left out on purpose.
These includes the differences in the Western and Eastern Church doctrines on trinity, the
heresies associated with it (which is part of another assignment), the great schism of 1054 etc
and etc!

My interest in Trinitarian theology was kindled further in the recent days by a Cross, made in
Italy, presented to me by a close friend and mentor. It depicted the role of The Father, The Son
and The Holy Spirit in the economy of salvation, which could be perceived by my ignorant
human senses, which are yet to identify the The Cloud of Forgetting and The Cloud of

A note of gratitude to all the members of DBCLC, Archdioceses of Thrissur; Especially Fr

Jiphy, Director; Sr Paulin in the office; Sr Thommasina in the library; Sisters in the book
stall and Sr Annies and her companions in the refectory preparing tea to make a break
refreshing; for giving me an opportunity to know what I know now and to use that
knowledge for someone in need.