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Lame Arguments Against the Trinity (Bonus Section)

SERIES INFO: This series of blog articles will include topics (and bonus sections) I couldn't fit into my book Reintroducing Jesus: Uncovering Jesus of Nazareth in the Misinformation Age.

There’s plenty of biblical evidence to justify the belief in God as three persons with one divine nature, but let’s be honest. Not only is the Trinity a hard concept to wrap our heads around, but it’s also not immediately obvious when first reading through the Bible [1]. It can be a bit like the end of a mystery movie: you miss all the clues until someone points them out to you. So, Christians shouldn’t be surprised when challenged on the Trinity. Still, people often raise these popular objections that are pretty lame.

Lame Objection #1 - The word “Trinity” doesn’t appear in the Bible.

Yes, the writers of the Bible never use the word “Trinity” anywhere. So, the above statement is 100% accurate, yet it's still lame when it comes to debunking the Trinity. To illustrate, another word is also regularly used by Christians that doesn’t appear in the Bible: Bible. I think it’s safe to assume Christians say the word “Bible” more than they do “Trinity,” and I’ve never heard anyone say Christians shouldn’t believe in the Bible because the word “Bible” doesn’t appear in the Bible—not in Hebrew, Greek, or King James English.

This is how language works: we create words to describe things so we don’t have to explain them every time they come up. When I teach a white belt a jiujitsu lock for the first time, I show how to do it and say, “OK, you grab the wrist like this… Then, with your other hand, reach over and grab your own wrist like this... Then pivot like this...” and then I say, “This is called a kimura.” Know why I give the lock’s name? So, I don’t have to explain it again! I’ll just say, “Hey, white belt, do a kimura!” In the same way, the church has developed language to explain concepts found in scripture.

The first known use of the term “Trinity” was by the important early church theologian Tertullian of Africa in his work defending the Trinity called Against Praxeas. Written around AD 220, he used the Latin word Trinitas, likely coining the phrase for the same reason we name jiujitsu moves: it makes life a lot easier. We also have Christian writers who lived before Tertullian who clearly reference the Trinity without using the actual word, like Ignatius (died AD 108), Polycarp (died AD 155), and Justin Martyr (died AD 165).

Anyway, even if we threw out all these other early writings, it doesn’t make a difference. The concept of the Trinity appears in the Bible, even if the word doesn’t.

Lame Objection #2 - After Constantine became Christian, Christianity was influenced by paganism and, thus, invented the Trinity.

Oh, woe to Constantine! Woe to the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity! Everyone (and it really appears to be everyone) wants to blame him for every ill (both legitimate and illegitimate) related to the historical church. Yet, most of these theories are about as sound as the most nonsensical internet conspiracies about a flat earth.

As I wrote above, Tertullian coined the phrase “Trinity” around AD 220. Constantine didn’t become a Christian until AD 311. That right there destroys this lame objection. Next!

Lame Objection #3 - 1 John 5:7 was added into the Bible at a later date.

In the King James English version of the Bible, we find a clear reference to the Trinity in 1 John 5:7. It reads, “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.” Anti-Trinitarians love to point out that this verse doesn’t appear in the earliest ancient manuscripts. As with Lame Objection #1, they’re totally correct—but the objection is still lame.

In Reintroducing Jesus, a whole chapter is dedicated to learning about textual criticism, how through comparing the many ancient manuscripts of the New Testament we can spot errors or later additions. So, we know 1 John 5:7 is without a doubt a late addition to John’s first letter, not appearing in any manuscripts until medieval times! In other words, no ancient manuscript contains these words—not one. So, the evidence shows it's not part of John’s original letter. Therefore, most modern translations leave it out.

Sometimes ancient scribes wrote corrections in the margins of manuscripts, and sometimes they wrote notes and commentary in the margins. Sometimes later scribes would get confused and add margin notes into the text, thinking they were corrections. So, we don’t need to necessarily believe this was a purposeful attempt to propagate the doctrine of the Trinity. Once again, thanks to our good friend textual criticism, these rare mistakes are easily identified and corrected.

So, we can say to our lame objector, “You’re absolutely right! Someone looooooong after John’s letter was written added those words into a branch of the manuscript tradition, and those words made it into the King James English version of the Bible. But thanks to the massive amounts of ancient New Testament manuscripts (over 5,000!), we knew that already.”

Then, just for kicks, be sure to add: “Yet, even without 1 John 5:7, the Trinity is still in the Bible.”

[1] Though the Trinity is easiest seen in the New Testament, clues pointing to the Trinity exist in the Old Testament. Here are some passages if you’re curious. Make sure you read them carefully in an accurate and literal translation: Genesis 19:24; Exodus 3:2–6 (and also compare it to Joshua 5:13–15); Zechariah 2:10–11; Isaiah 9:6; Genesis 1:1–2 (If you can find a resource to help you understand the original Hebrew of this last one, even better).

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