Friday, December 21, 2007

Constantine and the Trinity

How many times have you heard it? It will likely be repeated until Christ comes and settles the dispute once and for all. Unfortunately, the proponents of the claim don't seem to care about backing up the claim. It's as if making the claim is sufficient to prove it. What claim? The oft-repeated accusation against 1600 years of Christian doctrine is that the Trinity was a manufactured belief inserted by Constantine at the Council of Nicaea.

Now, I've already offered a host of biblical reasons for the doctrine (reasons that precede Nicaea). Unfortunately, I've also offered the caution of playing the "For the Bible tells me so" card too easily. And we're all aware that "lots of Scriptures" doesn't equate to "necessarily true." So, your Honor, I'd like to offer a couple of other pieces of evidence.

Did you know that the Emperor Constantine was not a believer in the Trinity? Truth be told, Constantine favored Arianism. There was an argument in the Church, so Constantine I called the very first Church Council together to unify the Church. The primary question was the nature of Jesus. The outcome was the Nicene Creed, which includes this statement about Christ: "very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father". Arius denied this and claimed that Jesus was made, not of one substance with the Father. The Council voted some 316 to 2 against Arius. Constantine's role in all of this was to call the Council and to pay for some of their travel and lodging expenses. As it turns out, Constantine himself supported Arianism, but felt that unity in the empire was more important than his view and exiled Arius. Several times in later years he attempted to bring back Arius and his beliefs, but the subsequent Councils continued to deny the Arian doctrine as valid and the Church officially adopted the doctrine of the Trinity against Constantine's personal preferences.

The doctrine of the Trinity, however, predates the Council of Nicaea. This is a key point that so many detractors seem to fail to comprehend. The Council of Nicaea didn't bring it about; it was already in place. The Council of Nicaea didn't make the doctrine; it defended it against a challenge.

Take a cruise around the Internet sometime. You will find several sites that offer a variety of quotes from sources as early as the first century that assume or defend the doctrine of the Trinity. From Polycarp to Irenaeus to Tertullian to Origen, all of whom precede the 4th century, there is a host of references to the Trinity. Indeed, it was the lawyer Tertullian who first coined the term "persons" in reference to the three "persons" of the Trinity. The doctrine historically existed and was assumed as true centuries before it was affirmed at Nicaea despite the best arguments of its detractors.

In closing, your Honor, I'd like to offer one last piece of interesting evidence. It's somewhat outside of the normal realm of the argument, but I think it is pertinent. There are those who argue that the Aramaic Peshitta version of the Bible is the original form. They argue that, rather than being written first in Greek, it was written first in the language of the day, Aramaic, then translated to Greek. There are several interesting reasons for the argument and I don't intend to offer them here or settle that dispute. However, one of the differences between Aramaic and Greek is found in the solely Hebraic word for the Name of God: YHWH. In the Old Testament translations we often find the word YHWH translated as "LORD", where the letters are all capitalized to signify that it is the Tetragramatton -- YHWH. In Greek, however, there is no such possibility. So what if an author of a New Testament book intended that usage? Well, they would have used YHWH in their original Aramaic version, but it would have been translated to kurios in the Greek version. Interestingly, in the English translation of the Aramaic Peshitta version of the New Testament we read this:
No one can say, "Yeshua is YHWH," except by the Set-Apart Spirit (1 Cor. 12:3).
It would appear that one of the earliest known versions of the New Testament assumes an equivalence between "Jesus" (Yeshua) and Jehovah ("YHWH"). That is Trinitarian at its heart.

The next time you hear that Constantine interjected the Trinity into the Church, shake your head and walk away. It has been repeated enough that you will be thought a fool do deny it ... but it isn't true. The historical facts don't support it. Your Honor, I object. Assumes facts not in evidence. Instead, all the evidence -- both biblical and historical -- supports the doctrine of the Trinity from the start of Christianity.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Ps. 34:8
the LORD (i.e. Hebrew Yahweh)is good.

Quoted by Peter:
1 Peter 2:3
tasted that Lord (i.e. Greek Kurios) is good.

Therefore by scriptures Yahweh is Kurios is Jesus the Christ.
cnick

Stan said...

Oh, yeah, there are a lot of Scriptures that prove the point.

Anonymous said...

there were many apostate teachings in the church already from the time of the apostles. even the writings of the apostles mention the sect of nicolaus. jesus himself mentions you tolerate the woman "jezebel" refering to another apostate sect. so the earliness of the trinity doctrine does not prove its truth. it proves that the pagan people of europe were ill-inclined to give up their multiple gods and beleive in the oneness of the true god. if you want to understand how pagan the idea that christ is God is, study Hinduism.

Stan said...

If you don't understand the Trinity (and comparing it to Hinduism is proof that you don't), perhaps you ought to understand it before defying it. I provided lots of Scripture for the doctrine. This post simply addressed the nonsense that "Constantine did it!" The doctrine of the Trinity is not based in "early Christian writings" or "Constantine" or "the Council of Nicaea". Those things support it, but it is based in Scripture. But your refusal to see that suggests that you might need to examine whether or not you have any relationship with God at all ... you know, in your own best interest.

Anonymous said...

The word "trinity" does not even appear in the bible. why? Because it was a concept which slowly evolved in early christianity.

Flavius Valerius Constantius (c. 285-337 AD), Constantine the Great, was the son of Emperor Constantius I. When his father died in 306 AD, Constantine became emperor of Britain, Gaul (now France), and Spain. Gradually he gained control of the entire Roman empire.

Anonymous said...

Theological differences regarding Jesus Christ began to manifest in Constantine's empire when two major opponents surfaced and debated whether Christ was a created being (Arius doctrine) or not created but rather coequal and coeternal to God his father (Athanasius doctrine).

The theological warfare between the Arius and Athanasius doctrinal camps became intense. Constantine realized that the his empire was being threatened by the doctrinal rift. Constantine began to pressure the church to come to terms with its differences before the results became disastrous to his empire. Finally the emperor called a council at Nicea in 325 AD to resolve the dispute.

Only a fraction of existing bishops, 318, attended. This equated to about 18% of all the bishops in the empire. Of the 318, approximately 10 were from the Western part of Constantine's empire, making the voting lopsided at best. The emperor manipulated, coerced and threatened the council to be sure it voted for what he believed rather than an actual consensus of the bishops.

Anonymous said...

The present day Christian church touts Constantine as the first Christian emperor, however, his 'Christianity' was politically motivated. Whether he personally accepted Christian doctrine is highly doubtful.

(The idea that he did not even believe in the trinity is nothing surprising. He advocated for the trinity concept
for political reasons... even though he knew it had no basis in christinaity. why? he was interested in maintaining his power and position, rather than preserving christianity).
Read on and you will see that he sided with the 'team' which had the most support from the people.

The majority of bishops voted under pressure from Constantine for the Athanasius doctrine. A creed was adopted which favored Athanasius's theology. Arius was condemned and exiled. Several of the Bishops left before the voting to avoid the controversy. Jesus Christ was approved to be "one substance" with God the Father. It is interesting that even now, the Eastern and Western Orthodox churches disagree with each other regarding this doctrine, the Western churches having had no influence in the 'voting'.

Two of the bishops who voted pro-Arius were also exiled and Arius's writings were destroyed.
Constantine decreed that anyone caught with Arius documents would be subject to the death penalty.
The Nicaean Creed read as follows:
I believe in one God: the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible;
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God: begotten of his Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, through whom all things were made. . .

Anonymous said...

Even with the adoption of the Nicaean Creed, problems continued and in a few years, the Arian faction began to regain control. They became so powerful that Constantine restored them and denounced the Athanasius group.
Arius's exile was ended along with the bishops who sided with him. It was now Athanasius who would be banished.
When Constantine died (after being baptized by an Arian Bishop), his son reinstated the Arian philosophy and bishops and condemned the Athanasius group.
In the following years the political foes continue to struggle and finally the Arians misused their power and were overthrown. The religious/political controversy caused widespread bloodshed and killing. In 381 AD, Emperor Theodosius (a Trinitarian) convened a council in Constantinople. Only Trinitarian bishops were invited to attend. 150 bishops attended and voted to alter the Nicene creed to include the Holy Spirit as a part of the Godhead. The Trinity doctrine was now official for both the church and the state.
Dissident bishops were expelled from the church, and excommunicated.
The Athanasius (Trinitarian) Creed was finally established in (probably) the 5th century. It was not written by Athanasius but adopted his name. It stated in part:
"We worship one God in Trinity . . . The Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God; and yet they are not three gods, but one God."
By the 9th century the creed was established in Spain, France and Germany. It had taken centuries from the time of Christ for the trinity doctrine to catch on. Government and church politics were the reasons the trinity came into existence and became church orthodoxy.
As you have seen, the Trinitarian doctrine came from deceit, politics, a pagan emperor and warring factions who brought about death and bloodshed.

Anonymous said...

Contradictions to the trinity concept:

"Why callest me good? There is none good but one, that is God" (Matthew 19:17)

". . .for my Father is greater than I. . ." (John 14:28)

"My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me." (John 7:16)

"O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt." (Matthew 26:39)

"My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46)

"But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father." (Mark 13:32)

"Who has gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God" (Peter 3:22)

You would probably not publish any of the stuff... my purpose was really for you to read the material. If you enable the comments, good on you. If not, than know that you may be held responsible for misleading people from the worship of the one Creator. And God knows best.

Stan said...

Anonymous, the post was about the false claim that the Trinity was a dream of Constantine. If you're interested in why I affirm the Trinity, don't look at a post aimed at refuting that false claim. Look at something like this post on The Doctrine of the Trinity in which I offer the biblical reasons. It was not a concept that "slowly evolved"; it was a concept deeply entrenched in Scripture from beginning to end.

So, let's see what you say about Constantine and the Trinity. There isn't any question about the call to resolve the doctrinal conflict. However, it is your contention that the voting was "lopsided at best". This requires certain facts not in evidence. 1) The bishops did not vote their consciences. 2) The Council of Nicaea did not include a group of men gathered by God to correct the problem, but a group of men gathered by men to be coerced, threatened, and manipulated. 3) Constantine forced a conclusion with which he disagreed. Indeed, you offer a position without any support. You make all these claims regarding Constantine and his motivations and machinations, but no evidence. You claim that the Trinitarian doctrine "came from deceit, politics, a pagan emperor and warring factions" while you ignore that Scripture maintains that doctrine, not deceit, politics, a pagan emperor or factions.

You suggest in the end that I am "misleading people from the worship of the one Creator." That's fine as long as you recognize that your "Creator" is not connected to Christianity. Christianity requires the Trinity. John was not unclear in the first 3 verses of his gospel that Jesus was God. The Scriptures are not vague in making it clear that the Holy Spirit shares all the same characteristics as God. If Jesus was not God, then His death did not pay the debt for all. If the doctrine of the Trinity, upheld throughout Scripture, maintained by the Church from the beginning, defended throughout history, and still held today, is not the truth, the Christianity is of no value. We have no Savior and, in Paul's words, you are still in your sins.

Anonymous said...

Lol the trinity is in no way scriptural. Not even the idea of it. Why would Jesus say he didn't know the time of the end, yet his father did, if he in fact WAS the father (God) himself? Why would god need to sacrifice HIMSELF to cover over adams' initial sin? Adam was a perfect human, meant to live forever on earth. He sinned, and therefore passed sin onto all his offspring (us). Jesus was sent as a perfect human to cover/ransom/buy the sin by Adam. A perfect human for a perfect human. God, being the CREATOR, would not need to sacrifice himself. Humans and god are NOT equals.

Stan said...

Nice claim. "The Trinity is in no way scriptural." You really ought to research it before making such a claim. Here, let me help you. I did a substantial piece on it. All from Scripture.

A perfect man can cover the sins of one imperfect man. That won't cut it for a world of sinners.

The overarching message of Scripture including Jesus's own words about Himself and all of the rest of it prove that Jesus was God the Son, and "the trinity is in no way scriptural" isn't an argument that removes the tons of Scripture that disagree with you.

Stan said...

By the way, arguing that Jesus was merely human, one of God's creations, gets really, really stupid when you read that "All things were made through Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made" (John 1:3). That would require that Jesus made Himself, patent nonsense.