The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all (2 Cor. 13:14).[1]

 

Virtually all non-Christian cults (esp. Muslims, Oneness believers, and  Jehovah’s Witnesses) reject the doctrine of the Trinity and teach that the early church had no such concept of a triune God, but rather they held to a unitarian concept of God (i.e., God existing as one person). Because of a great lack of study in the area of Patristics (i.e., church Fathers), these groups normally assert that the origins of the doctrine of the Trinity first emerged at the Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325.

So vast is the evidence that the early church envisaged a tri-personal God and not a unitarian.

 

Patristic authority,  J. D. Kelly observes: 

“The reader should notice how deeply the conception of a plurality of divine Persons was imprinted in the apostolic tradition and the popular faith. Though as yet uncanonized, the New Testament was already exerting a powerful influence; it is a commonplace that the outlines of a dyadic and a triadic pattern are clearly visible in its pages” (J. D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, 88; emphasis added).   

 

QUESTION: What do these pre-Nicaea (A.D. 325) patristic sources: the Didachē (c. A.D. 70); Clement of Rome (96); Ignatius, bishop of Antioch (107); Mathetes (130); Aristides of Athens (140); Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna (150); Justin Martyr (151); Athenagoras of Athens (175); Theophilus, bishop of Antioch (180); Irenaeus, bishop of Lugdunum (now Lyon; 180); Clement of Alexandria (190); Hippolytus (205); Tertullian (213);  Origen (225); Cyprian, bishop of Carthage (253); Novatian (256) Dionysius, bishop of Rome (262); Gregory Thaumaturgus, the Wonder-worker (260); Methodius, bishop of Olympus (305); and Lactantius (307) have in common?- ANSWER: They all clearly affirm the biblical doctrine/concept of the Trinity and/or the coequality and coeternally of the divine person of the Son “with” the Father.         

 

Partial list (emphasis added on most citations): 

 

Didachē (viz. “The Teachings of the Twelve Apostles”; c. A.D. 70):

 

After the foregoing instructions, baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in living [running] water. . . . If you have neither, pour water three times on the head, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (7.1).

 

 Clement bishop of Rome (c. A.D. 96). 

Clement of Rome wrote an epistle to the original Corinthian church. He was perhaps the same Clement who was Paul’s close companion mentioned in Philippians 4:3. Schaff comments of Clement of Rome: “Clement, a name of great celebrity in antiquity was a disciple of Paul and Peter, to whom he refers as the chief examples for imitation. He may have been the same person who is mentioned by Paul as one of his faithful fellow-workers in Philippi [Phil. 4:3] (Schaff, History of the Christian Church, op. cit., chap. 13, Ecclesiastical Literature of the Ante-Nicene Age, and Biographical Sketches of the Church Fathers, sec. 152).

Eusebius in his History of the Church (III:4) says that “Clement too, who became the third bishop of Rome, was Paul’s co-worker and co-combatant, as the apostle himself testifies.”

 

Clement’s salutation (To the Corinthians), he clearly differentiates God the Father from the Lord Jesus Christ:

The Church of God which sojourns in Rome, to the Church of God sojourning at Corinth, to those who are called and sanctified by the will of God, through our Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you, and peace, from almighty God through Jesus Christ, be yours in abundance.

 

Ignatius bishop of Antioch (c. A.D. 107):

 

Ignatius bishop of Antioch was another apostolic church Father. What he says should be considered; after all, he was leader of the original church at Antioch:

 

There is one Physician who is possessed both of flesh and spirit; both made and not made [agennētos]; God existing in flesh; true life in death; both of Mary and of God; first possible and then impossible, even Jesus Christ our Lord (Letter to the Ephesians, 7).

 

Clearly, Ignatius does not see the Father and the Son as the same Person. In the same letter, he distinguishes the Father from the Son and the Holy Spirit:

Nevertheless, I have heard of some who have passed on from this to you, having false doctrine, whom you did not suffer to sow among you, but stopped your ears, that ye might not receive those things which were sown by them, as being stones of the temple of the Father, prepared for the building of God the Father, and drawn up on high by the instrument of Jesus Christ, which is the cross, making use of the Holy Spirit as a rope, while your faith was the means by which you ascended, and your love the way which led up to God (ibid., 9).

 

Jesus Christ, who was with the Father before the beginning of time, [cf. John 17:5] and in the end was revealed. . . . He, being begotten by the Father before the beginning of time, was God the Word, the only-begotten Son, and remains the same for ever. . . . . (Letter to the Magnesians, 6).

 

What is also noteworthy is the striking parallel in this portion of Ignatius’ letter and John 17:5. Ignatius states: “Jesus Christ, who ‘before the ages’ [pro aiōnōn] was ‘with the Father’ [para patri] and appeared at the end of time.” Specifically, both John and Ignatius use para with the dative denoting a marked distinction between Jesus and the Father and both use the preposition pro (“before”) to indicate that their distinction existed from eternity—“before time.”

Thus, Ignatius following the apostolic tradition envisages Jesus Christ as being para (“with/in the presence of”) the Father— pro aiōnōn (“before time”)—, which again is consistent with Trinitarianism, not Oneness unitarianism. As John does, Ignatius grammatically affirms the preexistence of the person of the Son who shared glory “with the Father” before time.     

 

For our God, Jesus Christ, now that He is with the Father, is all the more revealed [in His glory]. Christianity is not a thing of silence only, but also of [manifest] greatness (Letter to the Romans, 3).

 

Hermas (c. A.D. 120)

Hermas was perhaps the same Hermas whom Paul sends greetings to in Romans 16:14, around the year A.D. 57. Eusebius says of Hermas: “But as the same apostle, in the salutations at the end of the Epistle to the Romans, has made mention among others of Hermas, to whom the book called The Shepherd is ascribed” (History of the Church, 3.3).

In The Shepherd, Hermas writes in clear contradiction to the Oneness unitarian doctrine of the non-eternal Son: “The Son of God is older than all his creation, so that he became the Father’s adviser in his creation. Therefore, also he is ancient” (Ninth Similitude, 12).

Aristides of Athens (c. A.D. 140): “[Christians] are they who, above every people of the Earth, have found the truth, for they acknowledge God, the creator and maker of all things, in the only-begotten Son and in the Holy Spirit” (Apology, 16).

 

Polycarp bishop of Smyrna (c. A.D. 130-150)

The beloved Polycarp bishop of Smyrna, who claimed he had been a Christian for eighty-six years, was also, according to Irenaeus and Eusebius, a disciple of the Apostle John. In his last prayer before he was martyred, Polycarp glorifies not a unipersonal God, but rather a tri-personal God: the Father and His beloved Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit:

O Lord God Almighty, the Father of thy beloved and blessed Son Jesus Christ, by whom we have received the knowledge of Thee, the God of angels and powers, and of every creature, and of the whole race of the righteous who live before thee, I give Thee thanks that Thou hast counted me, worthy of this day and this hour, that I should have a part in the number of Thy martyrs, in the cup of thy Christ, to the resurrection of eternal life, both of soul and body, through the incorruption [imparted] by the Holy Ghost. I bless Thee, I glorify Thee, along with the everlasting and heavenly Jesus Christ, Thy beloved Son, with whom, to Thee, and the Holy Spirit, be glory both now and to all coming ages. Amen (Martyrdom of Polycarp, 14).

 

 

Mathetes (c. A.D. 130)

In his Letter to Diognetus, Mathetes, who claimed himself “having been a disciple of the Apostles,” speaks clearly of the eternality of the Word, not as the Father but as being sent from the Father:

I do not speak of things strange to me, nor do I aim at anything inconsistent with right reason; but having been a disciple of the Apostles, I am become a teacher of the Gentiles. For which s reason He sent the Word, that He might be manifested to the world…This is He who was from the beginning, who appeared as if new, and was found old, and yet who is ever born afresh in the hearts of the saints. This is He who, being from everlasting, is today called the Son. . . . (Letter to Diognetus, 11).

 

Justin Martyr (c. A.D. 160)

Throughout the content of his literature, Justin Martyr, consistently distinguishes the persons of the Trinity. Justin here naturally quotes the Trinitarian baptismal formula:

Then they are brought by us where there is water, and are reborn by the same manner of rebirth by which we ourselves were reborn; for they are then washed in the water in the name of God the Father and Master of all, and of our Savior Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit (The First Apology, 61.1).

 

Consistent with Trinitarian theology, Justin points out that the Lord’s usage of first person plural pronouns (*which are actual plural verbs in the Hebrew) in the OT was God the Father conversing with someone, “numerically distinct from Himself,” that is, another person:

“Let Us make,” –I shall quote again the words narrated by Moses himself, from which we can indisputably learn that [God] conversed with someone who was numerically distinct from Himself, and also a rational Being. . . . (Dialogue with Trypho, 62).    

 

Justin Martyr refers to Jesus’ eternality (as Son) and as being “even numerically distinct [kai arithmō heteron]” from the Father:

 

And that Christ being Lord, and God the Son of God, and appearing formerly in power as Man, and Angel, and in the glory of fire as at the bush, so also was manifested at the judgment executed on Sodom. . . . And that this power which the prophetic word calls God, as has been also amply demonstrated, and Angel, is not numbered [as different] in name only like the light of the sun but is indeed something numerically distinct, I have discussed briefly in what has gone before; when I asserted that this power was begotten from the Father, by His power and will, but not by abscission, as if the essence of the Father were divided; as all other things partitioned and divided are not the same after as before they were divided: and, for the sake of example, I took the case of fires kindled from a fire, which we see to be distinct from it, and yet that from which many can be kindled is by no means made less, but remains the same. . . . (ibid., 128).

 

Athenagoras of Athens (c. A.D. 175)

I will state briefly that He is the first product of the Father, not as having been brought into existence (for from the beginning, God, who is the eternal mind [nous], had the Logos in Himself, being from eternity instinct with Logos; but inasmuch as He came forth to be the idea and energizing power of all material things, which lay like a nature without attributes. . . . The Holy Spirit Himself also, which operates in the prophets, we assert to be an effluence of God, flowing from Him, and returning back again like a beam of the sun (A Plea for Christians, 10).

Athenagoras wonders how any man could declare someone as an atheist, if they speak of “God the Father, God the Son and the Holy Spirit”:

Who, then, would not be astonished to hear men who speak of God the Father, and of God the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and who declare both their power in union and their distinction in order, called atheists? (ibid.).

For, as we acknowledge a God, and a Son his Logos, and a Holy Spirit, united in essence, – the Father, the Son, the Spirit, because the Son is intelligence, reason, wisdom of the Father, and the Spirit an effluence, as light from fire; so also do we apprehend the existence of other powers, which exercise dominion about matter, and by means of it (ibid., 24).

 

Theophilus bishop of Antioch (c. A.D. 180)

 Theophilus seems to be the first person to mention the term “Trinity” (triados) when describing God:

 But the moon wanes monthly, and in a manner dies, being a type of man; then it is born again, and is crescent, for a pattern of the future resurrection. 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. And the fourth is the type of man, who needs light, that so there may be God, the Word, wisdom, man (To Autolycus, 2.15).

 

Irenaeus bishop of Lugdunum (now Lyon; c. A.D. 180)

It was not angels, therefore, who made us, nor who formed us, neither had angels power to make an image of God, nor any one else, except the Word of the Lord, nor any Power remotely distant from the Father of all things. For God did not stand in need of these [beings], in order to the accomplishing of what He had Himself determined with Himself beforehand should be done, as if He did not possess His own hands. For with Him were always present the Word and Wisdom, even the Son and the Spirit, by whom and in whom, freely and spontaneously, He made all things, to whom also He speaks, saying, “Let Us make man after Our image and likeness;” He taking from Himself the substance of the creatures [formed], and the pattern of things made, and the type of all the adornments in the world book (Against Heresies, 4.20.1).

 

Irenaeus rightly refers to the Word as the “Son” who he says, “was always with the Father,” which sharply opposes the unitarian view of God:

I have also largely demonstrated, that the Word, namely the Son, was always with the Father; and that Wisdom also, which is the Spirit, was present with Him, anterior to all creation, He declares by Solomon: “God by Wisdom founded the earth, and by understanding hath He established the heaven” (ibid., 4.20.3).

As it has been clearly demonstrated that the Word, who existed in the beginning with God, by whom all things were made, who was also always present with mankind, was in these last days, according to the time appointed by the Father. . . . For I have shown that the Son of God did not then begin to exist, being with the Father from the beginning; but when He became incarnate, and was made man (ibid., 3.18.1).

The Church, though dispersed through the whole world, even to the ends of the earth, has received from the apostles and their disciples this faith: [She believes] in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are in them; and in one Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who became incarnate for our salvation; and in the Holy Spirit, who proclaimed through the prophets the dispensations of God. . . . (ibid., 1.10.1).

Following, Irenaeus speaks of God the Son as distinguished from the invisible Father:

and the advents, and the birth from a virgin, and the passion, and the resurrection from the dead, and the ascension into heaven in the flesh of the beloved Christ Jesus, our Lord, and His [future] manifestation from heaven in the glory of the Father “to gather all things in one,” and to raise up anew all flesh of the whole human race, in order that to Christ Jesus, our Lord, and God, and Saviour, and King, according to the will of the invisible Father, “every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess” to Him [Jesus], and that He should execute just judgment towards all. . . . (ibid.).

 

When one examines the entirety of Irenaeus writings, the great truth of the Trinity shines forth.

 

Clement of Alexandria (c. A.D. 190):

I understand nothing else than the Holy Trinity to be meant; for the third is the Holy Spirit, and the Son is the second, by whom all things were made according to the will of the Father” (Stromata, Book V, Ch. 14)

 

Hippolytus (c. A.D. 205)

For us, then, it is sufficient simply to know that there was nothing contemporaneous with God. Beside Him there was nothing; but He, while existing alone, yet existed in plurality (Against Noetus, 10). Note the Greek: monos ōn polus ēn (lit., “alone existing [yet] plurality/many was”).

 

Tertullian (c. A.D. 213)

He commands them to baptize into the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, not into a unipersonal God. And indeed it is not once only, but three times, that we are immersed into the Three Persons, at each several mention of Their names (Against Praxeas, 26).

 

Cyprian, bishop of Carthage (253): “One who denies that Christ is God cannot become his temple [of the Holy Spirit].” (Letters 73:12).

 

Novatian the Roman Presbyter (c. A.D. 256)

The Roman Presbyter Novatian wrote extensively on the doctrinal basis of the essential Trinity. He argued, from the Scriptures, that Jesus was God, but not as the Father. He clearly shows that the eternal Son interacted with the Father as he draws from Genesis 19:24, where we read that YHWH sent fire from YHWH:

Whence also, that there might be no doubt but that it was He who was the guest of Abraham on the destruction of the people of Sodom, it is declared: “Then the Lord [YHWH] rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah fire and brimstone from the Lord [YHWH] out of heaven.” But although the Father, being invisible, was assuredly not at that time seen, He who was accustomed to be touched and seen was seen and received to hospitality. But this the Son of God, “The Lord rained from the Lord upon Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire.” And this is the Word of God. And the Word of God was made flesh, and dwelt among us; and this is Christ. It was not the Father, then, who was a guest with Abraham, but Christ. Nor was it the Father who was seen then, but the Son; and Christ was seen. Rightly, therefore, Christ is both Lord and God, who was not otherwise seen by Abraham, except that as God the Word He was begotten of God the Father before Abraham himself (“De Trinitate,” in Treatise of Novatian Concerning the Trinity, 18).

 

Novatian appeals to Philippians 2:6-11 to show again that the Son, the eternal Word, was not the Father:

“Who, although He was in the form of God,” he says. If Christ had been only man, He would have been spoken of as in “the image” of God, not “in the form” of God. . . . The Son of God, the Word of God, the imitator of all His Father’s works, in that He Himself works even as His Father. He is—as we have declared—in the form of God the Father. And He is reasonably affirmed to be in the form of God, in that He Himself, being above all things, and having the divine power over every creature, is also God after the example of the Father. . . . Yet He obtained, this from His own Father, that He [the Son] should be both God of all and should be Lord, and be begotten and made known from Himself as God in the form of God the Father. He then, all though He was in the form of God, thought it not robbery that He should be equal with God. For although He remembered that He was God from God the Father, He never either compared or associated Himself with God the Father, mindful that He was from His Father, and that He possessed that very thing that He is, because the Father had given it Him (ibid., 22).

 

Against the modalism of Sabellius, (Oneness doctrine)  Novatian writes:

that many heretics, moved by the magnitude and truth of this divinity, exaggerating His honours above measure, have dared to announce or to think Him not the Son, but God the Father Himself. And this, although it is contrary to the truth of the Scriptures, is still a great and excellent argument for the divinity of Christ, who is so far God, except as Son of God, born of God, that very many heretics–as we have said–have so accepted Him as God, as to think that He must be pronounced not the Son, but the Father. . . . This, however, we do not approve; but we quote it as an argument to prove that Christ is God, to this extent, that some, taking away the manhood, have thought Him God only, and some have thought Him God the Father Himself; when reason and the proportion of the heavenly Scriptures show Christ to be God, but as the Son of God; and the Son of man, having been taken up, moreover by God, that He must be believed to be man also. (ibid., 23).

 

Novatian lays out Scripture as his main point of argumentation against the modalists, again using Genesis 1:26 and Genesis 19:24, which opposes Oneness believers:

For thus say they [the modalists] If it is asserted that God is one, and Christ is God, then say they, If the Father and Christ be one God, Christ will be called the Father. Wherein they are proved to be in error, not knowing Christ, but following the sound of a name; for they are not willing that He should be the second person after the Father, but the Father Himself. And since these things are easily answered, few words shall be said. For who does not acknowledge that the person of the Son is second after the Father, when he reads that it was said by the Father, consequently to the Son, “Let us make man in our image and our likeness;” and that after this it was related, “And God made man, in the image of God made He him”? Or when he holds in his hands: “The Lord rained upon Sodom and Gomorrha fire and brimstone from the Lord from heaven”? Or when he reads (as having been said) to Christ: “Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten Thee. Ask of me, and I will give Thee the heathens for Thine inheritance, and the ends of the earth for Thy possession”? Or when also that beloved writer says: “The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit Thou on my right hand, until I shall make Thine enemies the stool of Thy feet”? Or when, unfolding the prophecies of Isaiah, he finds it written thus: “Thus saith the Lord to Christ my Lord”? Or when he reads: “I came not down from heaven to do mine own will, but the will of Him that sent me”? (ibid., 26).

 

Dionysius, bishop of Alexandria (262):

The Son alone, always co-existing with the Father, and filled with Him who is, Himself also is, since He is of the Father . . . neither the Father, in that He is Father, can be separated from the Son, for that name is the evident ground of coherence and conjunction; nor can the Son be separated from the Father, for this word Father indicates association between them. And there is, moreover, evident a Spirit who can neither be disjoined from Him who sends, nor from Him who brings Him. . . . Thus, indeed, we expand the indivisible Unity into a Trinity; and again we contract the Trinity, which cannot be diminished, into a Unity . . . For on this account after the Unity there is also the most divine Trinity . . . And to God the Father, and His Son our Lord Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit, be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen (“Epistle to Dionysius Bishop Rome,” 5-9 in Works of Dionysius, Extant Fragments [in Philip Schaff, The Ante-Nicene Fathers: The Writings of the Fathers down to A.D. 325]).

In Defense of Dionysius 9, Athanasius says of Dionysius’ letter to the Roman bishop (with the same name): “[Dionysius rightly] acted as he learned from the Apostles.”

 

Gregory Thaumaturgus the Wonder-worker (c. A.D. 260)
 
As with Dionysius of Alexandria, he was a pupil of Origen, and his Declaration of Faith, which is accepted as genuine, is a stunningly positive and definite Trinitarian treatise. Again, years prior to Nicaea:

There is one God, the Father of the living Word, who is His subsistent Wisdom and Power and Eternal Image: perfect Begetter of the perfect Begotten, Father of the only-begotten Son. There is one Lord, Only of the Only, God of God, Image and Likeness of Deity, Efficient Word,) Wisdom comprehensive of the constitution of all things, and Power formative of the whole creation, true Son of true Father, Invisible of Invisible, and Incorruptible of Incorruptible, and Immortal of Immortal and Eternal of Eternal. And there is One Holy Spirit, having His subsistence from God, and being made manifest by the Son, to wit to men: Image of the Son, Perfect Image of the Perfect; Life, the Cause of the living; Holy Fount; Sanctity, the Supplier, or Leader, of Sanctification; in whom is manifested God the Father, who is above all and in all, and God the Son, who is through all. There is a perfect Trinity, in glory and eternity and sovereignty, neither divided nor estranged. Wherefore there is nothing either created or in servitude in the Trinity; nor anything superinduced, as if at some former period it was non-existent, and at some later period it was introduced. And thus, neither was the Son ever wanting to the Father, nor the Spirit to the Son; but without variation and without change, the same Trinity abides ever (A Declaration of Faith).

 

Methodius of Olympus (c. A.D. 305)

Writing in the very early fourth century, Methodius’s work was widely read and highly valued. Jerome refers to him several times as does Epiphanius, Gregory Nyssen, Andrew of Caesarea, Eustathius of Antioch, and Theodoret. He is definitive as to his doctrine and, of course, extraordinarily Trinitarian in his view of God:

For the kingdom of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is one, even as their substance is one and their dominion one. From wich huch Whence also, with one and the same adoration, we worship the one Deity in three Persons, subsisting without beginning, uncreated, without end, and to which there is no successor. For neither will the Father ever cease to be the Father, nor again the Son to be the Son and King, nor the Holy Ghost to be what in substance and personality He is. For nothing of the Trinity will suffer diminution, either in respect of eternity, or of communion, or of sovereignty (Oration on the Psalms, 5).

 

The Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, explains Methodius, were in divine accordance in purpose and will, being inseparable:

Whence also in this place they are not only said to hymn with their praises the divine substance of the divine unity, but also the glory to be adored by all of that one of the sacred Trinity, which now, by the appearance of God in the flesh, hath even lighted upon earth. They say: “The whole earth is full of His glory.” For we believe that, together with the Son, who was made man for our sake, according to the good pleasure of His will, was also present the Father, who is inseparable from Him as to His divine nature, and also the Spirit, who is of one and the same essence with Him (Oration concerning Simon and Anna on the Day that they met in the Temple, 2).

 

Lactantius (307)

When we speak of God the Father and God the Son, we do not speak of them as different, nor do we separate them, because the Father cannot exist without the Son, nor can the Son be separated from the Father, since the name of ‘Father’ cannot be given without the Son, nor can the Son be begotten without the Father … [T]hey both have one mind, one spirit, one substance; but the former [the Father] is as it were an overflowing fountain, the latter [the Son] as a stream flowing forth from it. The former as the sun, the latter as it were a ray [of light] extended from the sun” … “We, on the other hand, are [truly] religious, who make our supplications to the one true God. Some one may perhaps ask how, when we say that we worship one God only, we nevertheless assert that there are two, God the Father and God the Son–which assertion has driven many into the greatest error … [thinking] that we confess that there is another God, and that He is mortal … [But w]hen we speak of God the Father and God the Son, we do not speak of them as different, nor do we separate each, because the Father cannot exist without the Son, nor can the Son be separated from the Father” (Divine Institutes, 4:28-29).

 

Many more could be presented that undeniably show, within the proper context of the writers cited, that the early church prior to Nicaea collectedly embraced the concept of the Trinity and rejected both polytheism and Oneness unitarianism in all forms. They saw and taught that the one true God was triune—God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit—three distinct coequal, coeternal, and coexistent persons. This is the Faith of the OT believers and the NT church.

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Athanasius, in his Statement of Faith, put into plain words the doctrine of the indivisible and inseparable tri-unity of God:

 

“We believe in one Unbegotten God, Father Almighty, maker of all things both visible and invisible, that hath His being from Himself. And in one Only-begotten Word, Wisdom, Son, begotten of the Father without beginning and eternally; word not pronounced nor mental, nor an effluence of the Perfect, nor a dividing of the impassible Essence, nor an issue; but absolutely perfect Son. . . . We believe, likewise, also in the Holy Spirit that searcheth all things, even the deep things of God (1 Cor. ii. 10), and we anathe-matise doctrines contrary to this. . . .For neither do we hold a Son-Father, as do the Sabellians, calling Him of one but not of the same essence, and thus destroying the existence of the Son. Neither do we ascribe the passible body which He bore for the salvation of the whole world to the Father. Neither can we imagine three Subsistences separated from each other, as results from their bodily nature in the case of men, lest we hold a plurality of gods like the heathen. For neither is the Father the Son, nor the Son the Father. For the Father is Father of the Son, and the Son, Son of the Father. The Father, possessing His existence from Himself, begat the Son, as we said, and did not create Him, as a river from a well and as a branch from a root, and as brightness from a light, things which nature knows to be indivisible; through whom to the Father be glory and power and greatness before all ages, and unto all the ages of the ages. Amen.”

 

 

 

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NOTES

[1] Note that the repetition of the Greek article (tou, “the”) and the conjunction (kai, “and”) in this passage: lit., “of the [tou] Lord Jesus Christ . . . and [kai] . . . of the [tou] God and [kai] . . . of the [tou] Holy Spirit. . . .” Grammatically, this construction (viz. Granville Sharp’s Greek rule #6) indicates a distinction of persons. Same with Matt. 28:19: lit., “in the name of the [tou] Father and of the [kai tou] Son and of the [kai tou] Holy Spirit.”

 

However, aside from the biblical passages where Jesus claims that He is God (cf. John 5:17-18; 10:26-33; the egō eimi [“I am”] affirmations [John 8:24, 28, 58; 13:19; 18:5, 6, 8; etc.) and the passages where He is presented as God by His apostles (cf. John 1:1, 18; 20:28; Rom. 9:5; 1 Cor. 2:8; Phil. 2:6; Col. 2:9; Titus 2:13; 2 Pet. 1:1; 1 John 5:20; Jude 4; Rev. 22:13), and presented as God by the Father (cf. Heb. 1:6, 8, 10-12) the Son possesses the very attributes of God:

  • He has power to forgive sins (cf. Matt. 9:6)
  • He is greater than the temple (cf. Matt. 12:6)
  • He is Lord of the Sabbath (cf. Matt. 12:8)
  • He is the King of a kingdom and the angels are His, He gathers His elect (cf. Matt. 13:41; Mark 13:27)
  • He is the Messiah, the Son of the living God (cf. Matt. 16:13-17)
  • He was to be killed and raised from the dead (cf. Matt. 17:9, 22-23; 19;26:2; Mark 8:31; 9:31; Luke 9:22; 18:31-33; John 2:19ff.)
  • He is omnipresent (cf. Matt. 28:20; John 14:23)
  • He is omniscient (cf. John 2:24-25; 6:64; 16:30; 21:17)
  • His is omnipotent (cf. Matt. 8:27; 9:6; 28:18; Heb. 7:25)
  • He gave His life as a ransom for many (cf. Mark. 10:45)
  • He gives eternal life (cf. Luke 10:21-22; John 5:21; 10:27-28)
  • He is the monogenēs theos, “unique/one and only God” that came from heaven (cf. John 1:18; 3:13)
  • He pre-existed with and shared glory with the Father (cf. Micah 5:2; John 1:1; 17:5)
  • He is Immutable (cf. Heb. 13:8)
  • He was worshiped as God (cf. Dan. 7:14; Matt. 14:33; John 9:35-38; Heb. 1:6; Rev. 5:13-14)

Virtually every New Testament book teaches the full deity of the Son, Jesus Christ, explicitly or implicitly. This is exegetically seen in passages such as the ones mentioned above. The biblical evidence is massive. Jesus declared in John 8:24: Ean gar mē pisteusēte hoti egō eimi apothaneisthe en tais hamartiais humōn (lit., “For if you should not believe that I am [egō eimi] you will perish in your sins”).

As with all religious groups that are “unitarian” in their theology (i.e., maintaining that God exists as one Person), Muslims reject the Trinity chiefly on the basis of their false notion as to what the doctrine actually teaches. As with Jehovah’s Witnesses and Oneness Pentecostals, Muslims see the Trinity as teaching three separate Gods. Thus, because of their misrepresentation of the doctrine, Muslims see Allah (Arabic for “God”) existing as one Person. Hence, naturally they reject the deity of Jesus Christ falsely concluding if Jesus were God, then, there would be more than one God. Mohammad’s misconception of the Trinity is quite evident, which can be seen in many passages of Islam’s most sacred book, the Koran:

O People of the Book! Commit no excesses in your religion: Nor say of Allah taught but the truth. Christ Jesus the son of Mary was (no more than) a messenger of Allah, and His Word, which He bestowed on Mary, and a spirit proceeding from Him: so believe in Allah and His messengers. Say not “Trinity”: desist: it will be better for you: for Allah is one Allah. . . . (Sura 4:171; Yusuf Ali’s translation; emphasis added).

They do blaspheme who say: Allah is one of three in a Trinity: for there is no god except One Allah. If they desist not from their word (of blasphemy), verily a grievous penalty will befall the blasphemers among them (Sura 5:73; Yusuf Ali’s translation).

Note: the Arabic term for [Holy] “Trinity” (al-thaaluuth al-aqdas) is not contained in the Koran. Because of his incorrect notion of the Trinity (as three gods), Ali added the term “Trinity” into the text. While some other translations do contain “Trinity” others though are consistent to the actual Arabic word translating it as “three” (e.g., Sura 5:73: “They have truly disbelieved those who say: Lo Allah is a third of three”).

Therefore, the verses referenced above in the Koran, do not actually condemn the doctrine of the Trinity: for, as indicated, there are no actual references to the “Trinity” in the Koran.[1] They are speaking against tritheism (three Gods), and thus not Trinitarianism—one God revealed in three distinct co-equal, co-eternal, co-existent Persons. The condemnation of the belief in the tritheism mentioned in the Koran (as well as polytheism) is shared by both Muslims and Christians. Therefore, we need to show Muslims that claiming that the belief of the Trinity equals the belief in three Gods is a false claim that misrepresents the Trinity. In doing so; Christian-Muslim dialogue can progress a lot further.

So, before presenting the concept of the biblical doctrine of the Trinity to Muslims (or any other anti-Trinitarian group) you must first deal with the unitarian/unipersonal assumption: i.e., God existing as one Person. For this is the theological starting point of groups such as Muslims, Jews, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Oneness Pentecostals, etc. It must be emphasized over and over: The very foundation of the doctrine of Trinity is ontological Monotheism—one God by nature (cf. Deut. 6:4; Jer. 10:10-11.)

 

The 3 Biblical Truths of the Trinity

1: There is only one God.

2: There are three Persons or Selves that are presented as God: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

3: The three Persons are distinct from each other.

Conclusion: The three distinct Persons share the same nature or Being of the one God.    

 

First Truth: Monotheism. God is presented as one Being – not one person.

Passages which speak on “one God”  (e.g., Deut 6:4; Isa. 44:6-8; Mark 12:29-30; 1 Tim. 2:5 et al) reveal that God is one Being. However, unitarian groups such as Muslims, JWs, Oneness Pentecostals etc. read into “one” God as “one” person. Through the OT and NT,plural nouns, verbs, adjectives and plural prepositions are applied to the one God (cf. Gen. 1:26; 3:22; 11:7; Isa. 6:8; 54:5; Eccl. 12:1 [see Heb.] et al). Also, in places such as Gen. 19:24, we find Yahweh on earth acting on behalf of Yahweh in heaven (as we see in the NT where the divine Son interacts with God the Father (e.g., John 1:18; 6:37-39; 14:23; 16:28; 17:5; Heb. 1:8, 10-12).                

  

Second truth: Scripture presents that Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are God and worshiped as God. 

 

Jesus: 

1. Jesus is God (ho theos, “the God) and seen as the Yahweh of the OT: e.g., John 1:1-3; John 1:18; John 20:28; Colossians 2:9; Philippians 2:5-11; Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1 (see Granville Sharp’s Greek Grammar Rule #1); Hebrew 1:3; and esp. V. 8 and 10-12. Further, He was presented as the great “I am” (egō eimi); viz. at John 8:24, 28, 58; 13:19; 18:5, 6, and 8 (in light of places in the OT such as Deut. 32:39; Isa. 41:4; 43:10; 48:12 – where Yahweh is referred to as egō eimi, “I am” in LXX).  

2. He was presented as the YHWH of the OT.

The NT authors clearly envisaged Jesus Christ as the Yahweh of the OT. Hence, they often cited OT passages referring to Yahweh and applied them to Jesus Christ: e.g., compare Joel 2:32 with Rom. 10:13; Isa. 6:8 with John 12:41; Ps. 102-25-27 with Heb. 1:10; Isa. 45:23-24 with Phil. 2:9-11; Isa. 8:12, 13 with 1 Pet. 3:14, 15; etc. (see also Jesus is Jehovah: Old Testament passages of Jehovah applied specifically to Jesus Christ in the NT).

3. Jesus is Creator: e.g., John 1:3; Col. 1:16-17; Heb. 1:2, 8-10. 

4. Jesus claimed He was fully God: Although Jesus never literally stated, “I am God,” Jesus’ claims to deity were much stronger and clearer than if He had said, “I am God.” In fact, some of Jesus’ claims to deity were only used of Yahweh alone: John 5:17-18; John 10:26-33 (cf. Duet. 32:39; Isa. 41:4; 48:12; Ps. 95:7); the seven “I am” (egō eimi) affirmations stated at John 8:24, 28, 58; 13:19; 18:5, 6, and 8.

5. Jesus is worshiped in a “religious context” which was reserved for God alone (cf. Exod. 20:5): e.g., Dan 7:14; Matt. 14:33; 28:9; John 9:38; Heb. 1:6; Rev. 5:11-14.– See Christ Worshiped as God

6. Jesus possesses the SAME attributes as God the Father, for example:

  • Creator (cf. John 1:3; Col. 1:16-17; Heb. 1:10-12)
  • Raises the dead and gives them life: John 5:21: “For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes” (cf. John 6:37-40, 44).
  • Omnipresent (cf. Matt. 28:20; John 14:23; 2 Cor. 13:5; Gal. 2:20).
  • Omniscient (cf. John 2:24-25; 6:64; 16:30; 21:17).
  • Omnipotent or all-powerful (cf. Matt. 8:27; 9:6; 28:18; Heb. 7:25).
  • Eternal (Pre-Existing) (cf. Micah 5:2; John 1:1; 8:58; 17:5).
  • Immutable (cf. Heb. 13:8).

To recap, Scripture then presents in the clearest way that Jesus Christ is God (yet distinct from the Father, cf. John 1:1b; 17:5), Creator, worshipped in a religious context, and possesses the same attributes as that of God the Father.

 

The Holy Spirit is God: e.g., Acts 5:3-4; the Holy Spirit also possesses the attributes of God:

  • Eternal, having neither beginning nor end (cf. Heb. 9:14),
  • Omnipresent, being everywhere at the same time (cf. Ps. 139:7).
  • Omniscient, understanding all things (cf. 1 Cor. 2:10-11).
  • Omnipotent (cf. Luke 1:35).

The Holy Spirit is a Person: e.g., the Holy Spirit communicates (e.g., Acts 10:19-20; 13:2; Heb. 3:7-11; 10:15-17); personal pronouns (“I,” “He”) are applied to Him (cf. Acts 10:20; John 16:13-14); possesses “personal” attributes (e.g., He has a will [cf. 1 Cor. 12:9-11]; emotions [cf. Eph. 4:30]; intelligence in that He investigates [cf. 1 Cor. 2:10-11; Rom. 8:27]; He intercedes/prays [cf. Rom. 8:26]; He can be lied to [cf. Acts 5:3]; He can be blasphemed [cf. Mark 3:29-30]; He issues commands [cf. Acts 13:4; Acts 16:6]; He gives love [cf. Rom. 15:30]). See also: God the Holy Spirit: The Third Person of the Trinity


Third Truth: The three Persons are distinct from each other: e.g., John 1:1b. 17:5; Matt. 28:19; 1 Cor. 13:14; 1 John 1:3; Rev. 5:13.[2] See also: Grammatical Details.

As mentioned, additionally, in the OT, God is presented as multi-Personal: e.g., Gen. 19:24; Isa. 48:16; Hosea 1:7; Eccl. 12:1 (Heb. “Creators”); Isa. 54:5 (Heb. “Makers”; see also: The Multi-Personal God in the Old Testament and Oneness Theology)

In conclusion then, Scripture presents a tri-personal God. The Trinity is God’s highest revelation to mankind. In John 4:23-24, Jesus told the Samaritan woman that God seeks those who worship Him “in spirit and truth.” In truth, God is triune. Worshiping a unipersonal God or three separate Gods is not worshiping Him in truth. The issue being that the truth of the Trinity, the self-disclosure of God to men, is found in nearly every page of the Holy Scriptures: There is one God, and there are three distinct, coequal, coeternal, and coexistent, self-cognizant divine Persons or Egos that share the nature of the one God—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

 

Notes

[1] Historically, these verses are no doubt referring to a heretical so-called Christian sect called Mariyama or Collyridians who existed within the same geographical location and period as that of Mohammad. This sect held to a form of Tritheism, worshipping Mary and her Son both of which were believed to be two separate gods besides God.

[2] Specifically, Matt. 28:19; 1 Cor. 13:14; 1 John 1:3; and Rev. 5:13 (and there are many others) distinguish the Persons in the Trinity. This is due to their grammatical construction—namely, the repetition of both the article (ho, “the”) and conjunction (kai, “and”). For example, note the literal reading of 2 Cor. 13:14: “The grace [of] the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love [of] the God, and the fellowship [of] the Holy Spirit, be with all of you.” Or the literal reading of Rev. 5:13: “[to] the one sitting upon the throne and [to] the Lamb. . . .” Here, the Father (“the one sitting”) and Christ (“the Lamb”) are personally differentiated by the repetition of the article “the” (ho) and conjunction “and” (kai).

And behold! Allah will say: “O Jesus the son of Mary! Didst thou say unto men, worship me and my mother as gods in derogation of Allah?” He will say: “Glory to Thee! never could I say what I had no right (to say). . . . ” (Qur’an, Sura 5.116).[1]

Anyone who has interfaced with Muslims (or also JWs) on the Person of Christ or nature of God has probably been asked that question. Although, Muslims are taught that Jesus was a prophet of Allah, sinless, virgin born, preformed miracles, etc. they reject that He was eternal God in the flesh, crucified, and resurrected from the dead. The rejection of the deity of Jesus Christ (and the Trinity) is common to all non-Christian cults and false religions. Because Jesus said in John 8:24 that “unless you believe that I am [egō eimi], you will die in your sins” we cannot be hesitant or be timid in proclaiming that Jesus is God in the flesh—for salvation is predicated on that belief. A few months ago, in a formal debate with a Muslim apologist, I was asked the typical question: “Where did Jesus claim to be God and say worship Me?” The fact of the matter is this: If Jesus is God, Islam is proven a false religion and thus, Mohammad is merely another false prophet who deceived his followers.

Jesus’ claims to deity were much stronger and clearer than if He had said, “I am God”

First, we must understand that in the NT, Jesus never literally said, “I am God.” As we will show, the term “God” is subject to different meanings according to the context. In other words, the term “God” (Heb. Elohim; Gk. theos) had many meanings in the OT. And in the NT, the plural form of theos (theoi, “gods”) denoted false gods (cf. John 10:34-35; 1 Cor. 8:5). In the OT, Elohim (“God”/“gods”) referred to judges (cf. Exod. 21:6; 22:8-9), false gods (cf. Ps. 96:5), the true God (cf. Jer. 10:10); etc. In Exodus 7:1, the Lord said to Moses: “See, I make you as God [Elohim] to Pharaoh.” Of course, Moses was not actually made deity, but only as God’s direct representative, he was made as God to Pharaoh. The point is, Moses, judges, angels, etc. were called “God(s),” even though they were not God by nature. So if Jesus would have stated, “I am God,” those that deny the deity of Christ could construe the phrase to mean that Jesus was merely claiming that He was a representative of God, or a perfect judge, or a mighty angel (as the JWs see it, using Isa. 9:6).

However, Jesus’ claims to deity were much stronger and clearer than if He had said, “I am God.” In other words, Jesus made specific claims to express His deity (some of which were used only of YHWH in the OT), which were clearly understood by both friends and enemies as claims to be equal with God. These specific claims were not used by nor were they applied to humans or angels, as with the term “God.”

Note the following claims, which explicitly demonstrate that Jesus did indeed claim to be equal with God, in the same sense as God the Father.

Egō Eimi (“I am”)

In John 8:24 Jesus declared: “For if you should not believe that I am [egō eimi] you will perish in your sins” (lit. trans.). Although, many translations add the pronoun “he” (e.g., NKJ, NASB, NIV)[2] after “I am” in spite of the fact that the pronoun is not contained after egō eimi (“I am”) in any Greek manuscripts of John 8:24—nor is the pronoun contained after Jesus’ other egō eimi affirmations in John 8:28, 58; 13:19; 18:5, 6, and 8. Jesus claimed He was the “I am” seven times in the Gospel of John. These instances are absolute “I am” claims—i.e., with no supplied predicate. Hence, they are the not same as statements such as, for example, “I am the door” or “I am the shepherd.” These all have predicates following “I am” whereas the seven “I am” statements listed above have no supplied predicate, but rather the “I am” stands alone. Cleary this was an absolute and clear claim to deity.

The Hebrew phrase, ani hu, which was translated egō eimi (“I am”) in the LXX,[3] was an exclusive and recurring title for YHWH (cf. Deut. 32:39; Isa. 41:4; 43:10; 46:4; etc.). Thus, this title, then, clearly denoted YHWH alone (which the Jews clearly understood, cf. John 8:59). Further, Jesus’ claim to be the “I am” was not only seen in John 8:58 (as many assume), but note the marked progression starting in 8:24, then, vv. 28, 58; 13:19; 18:5, 6, and 8. It is when we take all the “I am” statements do we see the thrust of His claim.

So strong was this affirmation of deity that the Jehovah’s Witnesses had to mistranslate the present active indicative verb, eimi (“am”) in John 8:58 turning it into a past tense, “I have been” (NWT), as if Jesus was merely claiming to be older than Abraham. However, what immediately refutes this false notion is the response of the Jews in verse 59: They wanted to stone Him (legally, under Jewish law), which clearly shows that the Jews understood Jesus’ claim as an unequivocal claim to be God. Jesus’ claim to be the “I am” was essentially a claim to be YHWH, not a mere judge, angel, or representative of God, but YHWH. Hence, salvation is predicated on believing that the Son, Jesus Christ, is the eternal God, YHWH, the great “I am.”

The Son of God—in Essence

Muslims deny that Jesus’ claim to be the “Son of God” was in fact a claim of deity. Muslims are taught that Jesus was only speaking metaphorically when He referred to Himself as the Son of God (cf. John 10:36). In other words, Muslims argue that Jesus was the Son of God by doing good works, glorifying God, being humble, etc., thus, Jesus was not the one and only (monogenēs)[4] Son in a unique sense.[5] They further point out that in both the OT and NT, “son(s) of God” was applied to both angels and men (cf. Gen. 6:2; Job 1:6; Luke 3:38). So, as Muslims argue, when Jesus claimed Himself to be God’s Son, it could not have been a title of deity. In response,

1) The meaning of biblical words and phrases are determined by the context (as with the term Elohim). In a Semitic (Jewish) context, to be the “son of” something meant that one possesses or shares the nature of that something. In Ephesians 2:2-3, for example, the unsaved are said to be the “sons of disobedience . . . by nature children of wrath” in that they possess the nature of disobedience and wrath. Unbelievers are sons of the devil (cf. John 8:44), whereas believers are sons of God by adoption (cf. Eph. 1:5), through faith (cf. Gal. 3:26).

2) Even though the phrase “son(s) of God” was applied to angels and men, when applied to Jesus, it was in a context of essence or nature. Whereas Christians are sons of God by adoption, Jesus is the Son of God by nature—which was a clear claim of deity.[6]

3) Son of God = God the Son (cf. John 1:18). In John 5:17-18, when Jesus said, “My Father is working until now,” note the response of the Jews (similar to John 8:59): [they] “were seeking all the more to kill Him.” But why? The Apostle John tells us: “because He . . . was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.” The Jews (and the Apostle John) clearly understood that by claiming God was His Father, Jesus was claiming to be “equal with God.”

“I and the Father are one” (John 10:30)

Many Christians rightfully point to this passage to show that Jesus claimed equality with God the Father. As with Jesus’ other undeniable claims to be God (cf. John 5:17-18; 8:58-59), the response of the Jews in verse 33 is an irrefutable confirmation of Jesus’ claim to be God: “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God.”

However, it is not merely in verse 30 where we see a clear claim of equality with God. Note the passages leading up to verse 30. In verses 27-29, Jesus claims that He is the Shepherd and He gives His sheep eternal life and no one can snatch them from His or His Father’s hand. The Jews were familiar with Psalm 95:7: “For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand.” Knowing that only YHWH can make this claim of having sheep in His hand as well as giving them eternal life (cf. Isa. 43:11), when Jesus made this exact claim and then added, “I and the Father are one,” it’s easy to understand the response of the Jews: “You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God.”

Therefore, to answer the question of the objectors, Yes, Jesus claimed He was God in the most unequivocal and explicit way.

He claimed He was the egō eimi (“I am”; John 8:24 et al); Son of God (by nature; John 5:17-18; cf. 17:5), which was only applied to YHWH; and claimed that He has sheep in His hand and He is one in essence[7] with the Father (John 10:27-30). Jesus’ claims to be equal with God were much stronger and clearer than if He had said, “I am God.” We also see other unmistakable claims of deity such as when Jesus boldly stated He was “greater than the Temple” (Matt. 12:6); that He has “the authority on earth to forgive sins” (Mark 2:10); that He gives His life as a ransom (Mark 10:45); etc.

The Worship of Jesus

We worship Jesus because He is truly God. Jesus came to earth as a humble servant (cf. Phil. 2:7-8); He came to serve, not to be served (cf. Mark 10:45). His mission on earth was to die for the redemption of sinners, for this reason, God became flesh. Hence, it was not His role on earth to demand His creatures to worship Him—believers did this naturally.

However, in John 5:22-23, Jesus states that the purpose of the Father giving all judgment to Him was for the result of all honoring the Son in the same way (kathōs) they would honor the Father. The honor that is given to the Father is clearly religious honor—namely, worship. Therefore, Jesus asserts His essential equality with God by expressing that the worship/honor given to the Father is to be given to the Son and if one does not worship/honor the Son, he or she “does not honor the Father who sent Him.” Further, we find many examples in both the OT and NT where Jesus was worshiped in a religious context[8] and He accepted it (e.g., Dan. 7:14; Matt. 14:33; Heb. 1:6; Rev. 5:13-14).

NOTES

[1] Yusufali’s translation.

[2] The pre-2011 NIV had a bracketed clause after “I am” that read: “the one I claim to be.”

[3] LXX is the abbreviation for the Septuagint (meaning “seventy”—the traditional number of scholars that translated the OT Hebrew into Greek originating in Alexandria, Egypt around 250 B.C.). The NT authors frequently utilized the LXX in their OT citations (esp. in Hebrews).

[4] Monogenēs means “one and only”/“unique one” (cf. John 1:14, 3:16) with no idea of “to beget,” “give birth,” or origin. Thus, monogenēs huios, means, “one and only Son” (NIV) or “unique Son” (cf. John 1:18: monogenēs theos, “God the One and Only”/“only begotten God”). The lexical meaning of the term is especially seen in Hebrews 11:17 where Isaac is called one and only (monogenēs) son, yet Isaac was not Abraham’s first or only son, but he was the unique son from whom God’s “covenant would be established” (Gen. 17:19-21).

[5] See Answering Islam, which is one of the best and most prolific sites dealing with Islam > http://www.answering-islam.org <

[6] The most substantial way that the “Son of God” is used is in a Trinitarian sense. Jesus Himself employs it that way in several places (cf. Matt. 11:27; 14:28-33; 16:16; 21:33-46; 26:63).

[7] The neuter hen (“one”) here denotes essential unity, not identity, as Oneness Pentecostals assert. In addition, it is one in essence as the context demands (cf. vv. 27-30 along with the response of the Jews in v. 33).

[8] A religious context is any such context where spirituality or holiness exists.