The idea that the God of the Bible existed as three distinct persons all rolled into one deity has had support from pre-medieval clergy unto the present, but is the term 'trinity' an accurate term based on biblical scripture?
The word 'trinity' itself appeared in the 2nd century in the Greek writings of a theologian named Theophilus of Antioch. However, his use of the word did not carry the same meaning as it would in later centuries concerning a Godhead. He writes, "In like manner also the three days which were before the luminaries, are types of the trinity of God, and His Word, and His wisdom." A later understanding of the trinity would be the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
The latter interpretation appeared in the writings of the Catholic theologian Tertullian who was noted as the first to use the word trinity in Latin. Arguing against those at the time who did not believe in a trinity, Tertulllian writes,
The numerical order and distribution of the Trinity they assume to be a division of the Unity...They are constantly throwing out against us that we are preachers of two gods and three gods, while they take to themselves pre-eminently the credit of being worshippers of the One God."
Tertullian's trinitarian view was later defended and established by the Catholic Church in the 4th century in its Nicene Creed. This Creed was considered law by the early Catholic Church and those who opposed it with an alternate viewpoint, were quickly sought out as being heretics. Concerning this issue, the Creed states,
But those who say: 'There was a time when he was not;' and 'He was not before he was made;' and 'He was made out of nothing,' or 'He is of another substance' or 'essence,' or 'The Son of God is created,' or 'changeable,' or 'alterable'—they are condemned by the holy catholic and apostolic Church."
Protestants later adopted the trinity formula from the Catholics, and in most modern denominations, the trinity doctrine is taught and adhered to. Instead of the finger pointing and declaring of non-believers of this formula as being heretics, non-trinitarians are simply seen as those who do not understand the 'mystery of the trinity' in current times. However, to support their view of the trinity's existence, both Catholics and Protestants turn to scripture.
The most notable passage in the Bible that trinitarians cite as evidence for a trinity is in Matthew 28:19. The passage reads, "Travel then, making disciples of all the nations, immersing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." For centuries, this passage has been the main driver for the argument for three persons in one. However, the Bible itself never uses the word trinity to describe the passage above.
An alarming example of this teaching possibly being forced on the Bible is the controversy surrounding another passage in the Bible used by many trinitarians. In 1 John 5:7, certain translations, most notably the early King James Version reads, "There are three that testify in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit, and these three are one." This passage would seem like sheer evidence to support the trinity argument, however, most of the earliest Greek manuscripts and subsequent translations do not have this sentence. Scholars believe the passage is a later addition.
In the Old Testament, Moses was credited for affirming the oneness of God when he said, "Hear, Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one." Jesus even quoted Moses, saying that this was even a part of the first commandment. So what then was the need to complicate the simplicity of the one God formula into three as one? Was it a matter of church dogma blended with personal interpretations? Or did the Catholic Church itself not fully grasp God's entity?
The Bible establishes that God, the Father is a spiritual being who created all things. John chapter 1 reveals that Jesus is the word in which God spoke and created all things with. The Holy Spirit is the breath of God. The word spirit in Hebrew is 'Rooakh' which literally means breath/spirit. An example of this would be one God and His powers as opposed to three distinct persons.
For example, if a man blows out a candle, can it be said that the breath that blew out the candle is distinct from the man, making them a duality? Or if a radio personality's voice is played as a recording in California, yet the radio host lives in New York, is his voice now distinct from him as to call this a duality as well? God can be seen as the one who sent his powers into the world, as the man who sent his breath across the candle, or the radio host who sits on one coast while his voice is played on another.
This all equals one entity. Adding the trinity formula seems to complicate the issue no matter how well one believes they can explain it. However, the trinity doctrine does not seem to be fleeing anytime soon. The early Catholic Church seems to have put an eternal staple on the argument to which a vast number of denominations have accepted as biblical truth.