Never was there a more deceptive doctrine advanced than that of the Trinity. It could have originated only in one mind, and that the mind of Satan the Devil (Reconciliation [Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, 1928], p. 101).

Since the beginning of human history, the nature of God (i.e., how He revealed Himself) has been furiously attacked (esp. ontological monotheism).[1] Though, one of the first heresies that emerged in first century church was that of the Judaizers.[2] And the second heresy that the early church dealt with was that of the Gnostics.[3] Both of which were thoroughly refuted by the apostles in there writings.[4]

Jesus was clear on the subject: eternal life is to have “knowledge” of the true God (cf. John 17:3; 8:24). And Scripture presents that there is one true God who revealed Himself in three coequal, coeternal, and coexistent *distinct* persons—thus, God is Triune. The biblical data is undeniable. But many today (and historically) deny, in some way, shape, or form, the doctrine of the Trinity. We are not speaking of some peripheral, non-essential doctrine here: The belief in the doctrine of the Trinity is essential to ones salvation, for it is how God revealed Himself—the very nature or essence of His essential Being, the only true God.

If one removes the Son from the Trinity (in any way), the Son is reduced to either to a created being (as with, for example, Oneness believers and Jehovah’s Witnesses [JWs]) or the Son becomes a “separate” God (as in Mormonism). The Trinity is the biblical explanation of how there is one God and yet the Son is presented as both Creator[5] and “God” (theos)[6] distinct from the Father and Holy Spirit who are likewise presented as God.[7]

==========================================

Main Objections to the Trinity[8]

Also, see JWs_Objections in which deals specifically with the Trinitarian objections made by the JWs. And see here Oneness_Objections in dealing with some of the specific Trinitarian objections made by the Oneness Pentecostals.

However, virtually all anti-Trinitarians utilize the same arguments as delineated below:

The Trinity is 3 separate Gods

This is a typical straw man argument that misrepresents the doctrine of the Trinity by assuming that “Trinity” means, three “separate” Gods. The very foundation, however, for the doctrine of the Trinity is *monotheism*: there exists only one true God (one Being, not one Person). As seen, the doctrine of the Trinity states that there are three *distinct* coequal, coeternal, and coexistent Persons who share the nature of the one true God. The belief in three separate Gods is not Trinitarianism, but tritheism, which is how the Mormons view the Godhead.

The Trinity is from pagan origins

This is an argument of false cause (i.e., misrepresents the cause of something). In pagan constructs, they worshipped and believed in three separate gods. The Trinity asserts one true eternal God revealed in three distinct inseparable Persons. The Trinity is indigenous only to Christianity. The burden of proof rests squarely on those who make this kind of assertion—asserting something does not prove anything.

“Trinity” is an unbiblical term

This is a very popular objection especially among JWs. For the JWs to argue that the Trinity is not true because the exact word “Trinity” is absent from the Bible is self-refuting. If that kind of reasoning was true, then, the JWs would have to admit: the “Trinity” cannot be pagan, for the word “Trinity is not found in any pagan sources either. Further, if the *non-biblical words = false doctrine* argument were true, then, the Watchtower[9] [WT] must be a false religion for distinctive words that describe their organization are not contained in the Bible either such as “theocracy.” Even the mispronounced and mistransliterated term “Jehovah” was not found until the early thirteenth century, as admitted by the WT.[10]

It is also self-refuting for Oneness advocates to pose the same argument. For many Oneness doctrinal terms that denote the Oneness concept of God are not found in Scripture either (e.g., “manifestations,” “modes,” “offices,” “unipersonal,” “monad,” etc.).

So on one side, both Oneness believers and JWs argue that the “Trinity” cannot be true because the exact term is not contained in Scripture, but on the other side, they both will assert the opposite: non-biblical terms can be used to justify their distinctive doctrines, which they say are biblical.[11] In point of fact, and what is not at all considered, is that terms like, “incarnation,” “self-existent,” etc. are not mentioned in Scripture and both are biblical truths, which by the way, all Oneness believers agree upon.

If we were only limited to strict biblical words, then, when teaching out of the NT, we would have to use only Koinē Greek words that the authors used! Employing extra-biblical terminology does not violate the rules of sola-Scriptura (Scripture alone), as long as the terminology is consistent with Scripture.

In other words, the term “Trinity” is merely a precise doctrinal word that defines the biblical revelation that is so overwhelmingly found in Scripture: There exists only one true God. Scripture also presents that there are three distinct Persons[12] who share the nature of the one true God—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the church has used the term “Trinity” to describe the biblical data as with “incarnation” (cf. John 1:14) or God’s self-existence (cf. Ps. 90:2) all of which are biblical concepts. Again, this point must be understood: We cannot confuse the biblical data with doctrinal words that define that data.

The Trinity doctrine did not emerge until the 4th century

This is an argument from ignorance. First of all, the term was first used in the East as early as A.D. 180 to describe God by early church apologist, Theophilus, bishop of Antioch.[13] Further, it is completely misleading to say that the doctrine of the Trinity did not emerge until the 4th century.[14] This is a meaningless objection—for it confuses *doctrinal terms* with biblical revelation (as discussed above). The question of what is and what is not biblical is not determined by doctrinal terms, but rather the exegesis of the text. For a term to be “biblical,” it must be substantiated by the clear biblical data—i.e., what is stated in the pages of Scripture. Thus, we are not, as Paul instructs, to “go beyond what is written” (1 Cor. 4:6 NIV).

Scripture presents God as triune. As Christians, we must present a positive affirmation of the gospel (i.e., the true God) and a biblical defense to those who oppose it.[15] For this glorifies God. The JWs spend literally thousands of hours teaching (in literature and personal interaction) against the Trinity. In 2006, they conducted over six million Bible studies every week worldwide! Thus, we must take the time to accurately present the doctrine of the Trinity (the one true God) in our gospel presentation. Pastors especially should be mindful that by never mentioning the Trinity, it is nearly as bad as rejecting the doctrine itself.

NOTES

[1] Ontological (by nature) monotheism (one God) is the doctrine that there exists only one God by nature (cf. Deut. 4:35; Jer. 10:10-11). Mormons, although, claim that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are “one God,” but only in the sense of “unity,” not one in essence. But, as they assert, these three are three “separate” Gods, with the Father as the head God in whom they worshiped alone—thus, the Mormon view of the Godhead. But whether one or more Gods are worshiped is irreverent, the question is: how many true Gods exist? The fact that the Mormons believe that many “true” Gods exist, therefore, categorizes the Mormon people as overt polytheists (the belief in many true Gods) and hence, non-Christian. Not only in the OT, but in the NT as well, strict monotheism was strongly asserted (e.g., Mark 28:29; John 17:3; 1 Tim. 2:5).

[2] Simply, the Judaizers taught that one had to practice the OT law, rituals, ordinances, etc. (esp. circumcision), to obtain salvation. And this, was the primary reason as to why Paul wrote to the Galatians.

[3] The Gnostics (from gnōsis, meaning “knowledge”) held to a dualistic system: spirit was good and all “matter” (esp. flesh) was inherently evil; some even taught that “matter” did not exist; it was illusory—as with the theology of Christian Science today. Both the Apostle John and Paul specifically refuted this teaching (esp. in Col. and 1 & 2 John).

[4] As seen above.

[5] E.g., Isa. 9:6; John 1:3; Col. 1:16-17)

[6] E.g., John 1:1, 18; Titus 2:13; Heb. 1:3, 8-10

[7] Of course, the OT and NT teaching of “one God” (i.e., monotheism) does indicate or equate “one person” as *unitarian* groups such as Jews, Muslims, JWs, Oneness Pentecostals, etc. presuppose. Monotheism simply means “one God” (viz. “one Being”). To argue that “one God” equals “one person” is to argue in a circle. It assumes what is meant to be proven.

[8] These examples, however, are not necessarily in order of usage. Further, this is not an exhaustive list, only a sample of some of the main objections that are utilized most commonly by anti-Trinitarians.  

[9] That is, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, which is the organization of the JWs.

[10] The WT publication, Aid To Bible Understanding, states:

The first recorded use of this form [Jehovah] dates from the thirteenth century C.E. Raymundus Martini, a Spanish [Roman Catholic] monk of the Dominican Order, used it in his book Pugeo Fidei of the year 1270 C.E. (Aid To Bible Understanding, 1971, pp. 884-5).

For more information on the term “Jehovah” see www.christiandefense.org/Article on Jehovah.htm

[11] In logic, this kind of argumentation is called “special pleading” for it “pleads” to or argues only one side of the evidence while ignoring the other side.

[12] The Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit are called “persons” for the simple fact that (a) they all possess *personal* attributes (e.g., they communicate, make decisions [viz. a will], exercise emotion, etc. also referring to themselves as “I” (egō)—the hallmark of personhood. Even more, Jesus used first person pronouns (“I”) to refer to Himself and third person pronouns (“He,” “His”) to refer to the Father and the Holy Spirit (cf. John chaps. 14-16). Note that anti-Trinitarians such as JWs have no problem seeing the Father as a person, but the same evidence that demonstrates the personhood of the Father can be equally applied to the Son and especially the Holy Spirit. The JW’s are taught that Satan is a person because he communicates, however, that is true of the Holy Spirit at many places (e.g., Acts 10:19; 13:2) and yet they deny the personhood Holy Spirit due to their prior theological commitments: the Trinity is a false doctrine, thus, the Holy Spirit is merely Jehovah’s active non-personal force.

[13] Cf. Theophilus, To Autolycus, 2.15, in The Ante-Nicene Fathers [ANF], vol. 2. And the term “Trinity” was first used in the West around A.D. 213, by the brilliant church theologian, Tertullian of Carthage (cf. Tertullian, Against Praxeas, 2, in ANF, vol. 3).

[14] Many falsely assume that the doctrine of the Trinity was not developed until the Council of Nicea (A.D. 325). But the Trinity was not even discussed there.

[15] E.g., Titus 1:9, 13; 1 Peter 3:15; etc.

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.

—————————————————————————————————————————————————-

            

 

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.”

 

 

 

—————————————————————————————————————————————————-

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.”

 

“I came forth from the Father and have come into the world; I am leaving the world again and going to the Father [pros ton patera]” (John 16:28; emphasis added).

Recalling the basic Oneness theological assertion: there is only one God—the Father (e.g., Mal. 2:10; 1 Cor. 8:6). Therefore, the consequent proposition is that Jesus had two natures; divine, which is the mode or office of the “Father” (since only the Father is God) and human, the mode or office of the “Son.” Jesus then, was both the “Father” and “Son” while He was on earth. Notwithstanding the Scriptural data, Oneness teachers remove the three distinct Persons of the Trinity and postulate a unipersonal deity:

There is one God with no essential divisions in His nature. He is not a plurality of persons, but He does have a plurality of manifestations, roles, titles, attributes. . . . Jesus Christ is the Son of God [not God the Son]. He is the incarnation of the fullness of God [the Father] in His deity, Jesus is the Father and the Holy Spirit. . . . Jesus is the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.1

Even though there is no passage that exists in the New Testament, which explicitly calls Jesus the “Father,” Oneness believers firmly insist that Jesus is the Father. And while these adherents certainly claim to have a biblical precedent for their views, having them defend their position on the basis of sound, biblical exegesis is a different matter. Discursive arguments, incorrect proof-texting, the misuse of the primary passages, and a complete disregard for historical accuracy are not uncommon in the Oneness approach. And, let’s face it, in the final analysis, the true test of any position is its ability to withstand the examination of sacred Scripture. So, does this view find any merit in the text or not? For certainly the Bible is clear and able to define this issue for us, is it not? What I find is that all non-Christian groups have to maneuver the text in such an unnatural way in order to conform to their pre-decided theologies.

First, the standard Oneness proof texts used to teach that God is unipersonal, include Isaiah 9:6; Malachi 2:10; and 1 Corinthians 8:6. Second, the passages generally employed to support their modalistic assumption that Jesus is His own Father, are John 5:43; John 10:30; John 14:9; Colossians 2:9. Beyond that there is a technical argument asserted by Bernard and others, which has to do with the Greek conjunction kai (“and”) in the Pauline salutations (i.e., the conjunction kai should be translated not as the connective “and,” but rather as the ascensive “even”). There are others, of course; however, it is these particular passages, however, that they believe most supports their position. In the end, what is painfully clear, is that the Oneness interpretation of select biblical passages is highly resistant to the “plain reading” of the text.

Note first, the maximum redundancy of the way Scripture speaks of the distinct relationship between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Former UPCI preacher Gregory A. Boyd2 observes:

Consider the way that Scripture generally speaks regarding the Father and Jesus. Jesus is explicitly referred to as “the Son” over two hundred times in the New Testament, and never once is he called “Father.” By contrast, over two hundred times “the Father” is referred to by Jesus or someone else as being clearly distinct from Jesus. In fact, over fifty times this juxtapositioning of the Father and Jesus the Son is rendered explicit with in the very same verse. . . . whereas one hundred seventy nine times Jesus is presented as referring to “the Father,” “my Father,” or “your Father” in the Gospels as distinct from himself, at no time does he refer to “my Son” or anything of the sort as distinct from himself! Forty times in John’s Gospel, Jesus refers to himself as “sent by the Father,” but never does he refer to himself as the Father who sent the Son (emphasis added).3

To be sure, the Bible is not the theological starting point for Oneness theology: over two hundred times, Jesus is explicitly referred to as the “Son”—and never once is Jesus explicitly called “Father.” That the unambiguous teachings are sacrificed at the expense of doctrinal predilections is no problem for Oneness devotes.

Unitarianism: Only the Father is God

Before refuting the idea that Jesus is the Father, the Oneness foundation of unipersonalism will be the object of our attention. For it is this premise that gives rise to how they understand monotheism and the grid by which they define the Person of Christ. After all, it is due to a unitarian assumption (and a misunderstanding of monotheism). We must understand the Oneness pre-concluded starting point as it relates to the term “Father.” Only the Father is God, the divine nature of Jesus, they argue, and the “Son,” is the human nature of Jesus. Hence, Jesus, as the Son, was not deity. Remember, in Oneness theology, it was the Father that came down and wrapped Himself in flesh—that flesh being the “Son” mode or office. In defense of this premise, then, they appeal to passages that exclusively speak of the Father as “God.”

It is circular reasoning, however, to assume that since the Bible refers to the Father as God that this requires that the Father is God alone. Hebrews 1:8, though, shuts down the Oneness argument where the Father directly addresses the “Son” as God!: “But of the Son He says, ‘YOUR THRONE O GOD IS FOREVER AND EVER. . . .’” (pros de ton huion ho thronos sou ho theos eis ton aiōna tou aiōnos; Hebrews 1:8). In spite of that, the two verses that are normally used to define God as a unipersonal being are Malachi 2:10 and 1 Corinthians 8: 6.

Malachi 2:10

Do we not have one father? Has not one God created us?

Oneness believers see this passage as teaching that there is only one God: the Father. Is this what the passage is actually saying, though? A few initial observations prove otherwise. First, Malachi 2:10 does not support the Oneness assertion, it only asks, “Do we not have one father? Has not one God created us?” It does not say that only the Father is God. Second, the New Testament revelation concerning the intra-personal relationship between the “Father” and the “Son” was more fully revealed in the New Testament, particularly in the incarnation of God the Son (cf. Eph. 3:4-5; Col. 1:26-27). Third, to the Jewish mindset, the plain meaning of “father” in this passage would have meant Creator.4 Hence, “father” was a term that denoted God as Creator, which is well exampled in the Old Testament:

Is not He your Father who has bought you? He has made you and established you (Deut. 32:6).

But now, O LORD, You are our Father, We are the clay, and You our potter; And all of us are the work of Your hand (Isa. 64:8).

Do we not all have one father? Has not one God created us? (Mal. 2:10).

Also not considered by Oneness teachers is that “father” was a relational term. The God of Israel was “like that of a father” in the sense that He redeemed, provided, comforted, protected, created etc.: “Just as a father has compassion on his children, So the LORD has compassion is on those who fear Him” (Ps. 103:13).

This thought is perceptibly brought out in Isaiah 63:16: “For You are our Father, though Abraham does not know us And Israel does not recognize us. You, O LORD, are our Father, Our Redeemer from of old is Your name.” Again, Jewish mindset did not conceptualize the New Testament revelation of Father and Son. It is anachronistic to put forward such an assertion.

1 Corinthians 8:6

For even there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords, yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.

From this verse, unitarianism is again asserted: only the Father is God. This verse is also a favorite for the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who say that only Jehovah, the Father, is God Almighty. However, as Christian apologist Robert M. Bowman Jr. observes:

1 Corinthians 8:6 distinguishes between “one God, the Father,” and “one Lord, Jesus Christ.” The JWs [and Oneness believers] conclude from this verse that since the Father is the “one God,” Jesus cannot be God. But by that reasoning, since Jesus is the “one Lord,” the Father cannot be Lord! Yet we know that the Father is Lord (Matt. 11:25).5

However, if “one God” means that only the Father (not the Son) is God, then, “one Lord” likewise would mean that only the Son is Lord, not the Father. An examination of the Pauline corpus reveals the literary tool that the apostle used in differentiating the Father from the Son without infringing on the full deity of either. For example, the term Paul used most frequently when speaking of the Father was theos (“God”) while the term he typically used of the Son was kurios (“Lord”). But of course, Paul did explicitly refer to Jesus as ho theos (“the God”; e.g., Rom. 9:5; Titus 2:13; 2 Thess. 1:12).

Hence, when Paul would speak of the Father and Jesus in the same verse, he would naturally distinguish them by the titles theos and kurios. Accordingly, in Paul’s mind, they were two equal descriptions of deity. Consequently, Oneness teachers fail to realize that in a religious Jewish context the terms kurios and theos were equivalent descriptions of God. This is especially seen when one considers that the very term used to translate the Tetragrammaton (the divine Name, YHWH or Yahweh) in the Greek translation of the Old Testament Scriptures, the Septuagint (LXX), is this same Greek term kurios. Biblical scholar B. B. Warfield comments on the way Paul used the two terms:

Paul knows no difference between theos and kurios in point of rank; they are both to him designations of Deity and the discrimination by which the one is applied to the Father and the other to Christ is (so far) merely a convention by which two that are God are supplied with differentiating appellations by means of which they may be intelligibly spoken of severally.6

In the same stratum, Bible scholar Dr. Lawrence O. Richards comments on the use of the term “father” when applied to God in the Old Testament:

God is identified as Father only a few times in the OT. In those instances the relationship is between God and Israel as a people or between God and Christ as the seed of David’s line. In the OT, God is not viewed as being in a father-son relationship with individuals or as the father of mankind in general.7

Along with 1 Corinthians 8:6 to prove that only the Father is God, Ephesians 4:6 is also employed but the same refutation above suffices. It is this foundation, then, that gives formulation to Jesus as the one Person behind the disguises or masks of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Conversely, though, and it will be clearly demonstrated below, Jesus as God, was essentially distinct from His Father—even before time (e.g., John 1:1; 18; 17:5; Phil. 2:6). Such exegetical evidence leaves the Oneness position without any textual refuge.

Oneness Standard Proof-Texts

The most common proof texts that Oneness believers constantly present are Isaiah 9:6; John 5:43; 10:30; John 14:9; and Colossians 2:9. There is also a technical argument asserted by Bernard, which has to do with the Greek conjunction kai (“and”) in the salutations of Paul.

Isaiah 9:6

Isaiah 9:6: “Everlasting Father”: The Error of Oneness Theology Refuted

“For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. Because of the phrase Eternal Father”

Oneness advocates argue that the passage is teaching that the prophesied Messiah, Jesus Christ, is the Eternal Father. Aside from the fact, that nowhere in the NT is Jesus ever called “Father,” there are several flaws in this kind of modalistic interpretation:

1. Oneness teachers commit the fallacy of equivocation by asserting that the term “father” has only one meaning. The term father (ab) has various meanings in the OT, depending on the context.

2. When the term father is applied to God (or YHWH) in the OT (only nine times), it denotes His parental character to His children, namely, Israel (e.g., Isa. 63:16). Primarily though, the usage of father denoted God as Creator. As a matter of fact, the term “father” is not even a standard recurring title for God in the OT; it is used only nine times.

3. The word translated name (shem) as in His name will be called (shem + qara) was not a formal title for God, but rather it denoted the essence or essential characteristics of who someone is (cf. Young, Commentary on the Book of Isaiah, 1972: 331).8 This was clearly the Semitic concept of name. Hence, as to the essence and character of the Messiah, He is Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace.

4. Along with the primary meaning of Creator, the term father correspondingly carries the idea of possessor or founder, as with His creation. For example, 2 Samuel 23:31 speaks of Abialbon, which name means father (or possessor) of strength, strong one. Exodus 6:24 speaks of a man named Abiasaph, whose name means father of gathering, he who gathers. Thus, the Messiah is ab of eternity, that is, possessor of eternity. Richards further explains:

The key word for father in the Bible is ab. It occurs 1,191 times in Hebrew and 9 times in Aramaic form. It is a complex word. Although it usually indicates a literal father or grandfather, it may also be used as a title of respect for a governor or prophet or priest. . . . Ab is also used to indicate the founder of a guild. Thus Ge 4:21 identifies Jubal as father of all who play the harp and flute, i.e., he was the first musician. . . . It is probable that the title Everlasting Father ascribed to Messiah by Isaiah (Isa 9:6) is better understood as father of eternity, i.e., founder of the ages..9

5. Syntactically, the Hebrew term father precedes the word translated eternal (lit. father eternal) indicating the eternal nature of the Messiah. The Aramaic Targums reveal this thought well:

For us a child is born, to us a son is given . . . and his name will be called the Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, existing forever [or He who lives forever ]. The Messiah in whose days peace shall increase upon us 10.

6. There has never been a Jewish commentator, Rabbi, or Christian scholar or writer that has interpreted Isaiah 9:6 as Oneness teachers do. Beisner dismantles the Oneness exegesis here simply by pointing out that “I am a father, but I am not my father.” Oneness teachers must prove that Jesus is specifically called the “Father” of the Son of God (i.e., His own Father). Isaiah 9:6 only calls Him father of eternity.11

“Grace, mercy and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love” (2 John 1:3; emphasis added).

John 5:43

“I have come in My Father’s name, and you did not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, you will receive him.”

In Oneness theology, the name of the unipersonal deity is “Jesus.” So, Oneness teachers tell us when Jesus here claims that He comes “in His Father’s name,” He is actually declaring that the name of the Father (and the Son) is “Jesus.” To make sense of the passage, that is, to make it teach Modalism, Bernard has this to say:

The Bible plainly states that there is one Father (Malachi 2:10; Ephesians 4:6). It also clearly teaches that Jesus is the one Father (Isaiah 9:6; John 10:30). . . . It is important to note that the name of the Father is Jesus, for this name fully reveals and expresses the Father. In John 5:43, Jesus said, “I am [sic] come in my Father’s name.” In other words, the Son inherited His Father’s name. . . . He fulfilled the Old Testament prophecy that stated the Messiah would declare the name of the LORD (Psalm 22:22; Hebrews 2:12). In what name did the Son come? What name did He obtain from His Father by inherence? What name did the Son manifest? The answer is apparent. The only name He used was the name of Jesus, His Father’s name.12

As seen in other places, context is no friend of Oneness theology. At the outset, when the entire chapter is plainly read one cannot escape the clear distinctions between the Father and the Son. For example, notice in John 5:30-32 the straightforwardness in which the Son differentiates Himself from the Father:

“I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. If I alone testify about Myself, My testimony is not true. There is another [allos estin] who testifies of Me, and I know that the testimony which He gives about Me is true” (emphasis added).

“There is another,” Jesus said, not one, but ANOTHER (allos).13 Do Oneness advocates really think that Jesus’ audience would have understood Jesus as saying, “Oh yes, there is “another” witness however what I really mean is the “other” witness that I keep talking about, well, that is really Me—as the Father.” In candidness, to completely abandon the plain reading, “There is another witness,” and trade it for Modalism, is beyond a simple read-out interpretation, it is completely eisegetical, reading into the text a meaning that is external to the passage itself. Furthermore, there is even a larger strike against the Oneness rendering of the passage. We touched on it above. It is concerning the term “name” again. Simply, the term onoma (“name”) is found no less than one hundred and fifty-six times in the New Testament. Note that the normal first century application of the term “name” predominantly was used to signify “authority” or “on behalf of.” This New Testament meaning extends back to such Old Testament passages as the David and Goliath narrative:

You come to me with a sword, a spear and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD [Yahweh] of host, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted (1 Sam. 17:45; emphasis added).

David had informed the Philistines that he came in the “name” of the Lord, that is, by the authority of the Lord. Hence, Oneness dogma: Jesus is the name of the Father, does not follow, for just as David was not claiming to be the Lord himself, only coming in the authority of the Lord, so also Jesus was not claiming to be the Father, only coming in His authority. We can see this meaning even in modern parlance, as in the phrase, “Stop in the name of (or authority) of the law!” In the same way, then, Jesus here (John 5:43) comes in the authority or in behalf of the Father.

Philippians 2:10-11: “At the name of Jesus”

Philippians 2:6-11 is a beautiful high Christological hymn known as the Carmen Christi (Hymn to Christ). This hymn is discussed in greater detail here. However, what is relevant to our discussion of the Oneness claim is the phrase “at the name of Jesus” in verse 10. It is used by Oneness adherents to assert that the name of the unipersonal deity is “Jesus” (cf. Bernard, The Oneness of God, 223).

First, it was not the mere name Iēsous (“Jesus”) that was “above every name,” for Iēsous was a common name in first century Palestine. Rather, it was the onoma, “name” that belonged to Jesus. Grammatically, Iēsous here in verse 10 is in the genitive case, namely, a genitive of possession. Therefore, the “highest name” in which every knee will bow and every tongue will confess was the name that Jesus possessed or the name that belonged to Him. For the name that belonged to Him, keeping with Paul’s context (i.e., Jesus the Son as the fulfillment of Isa. 45:23)14 is revealed in verse 11: kurios Iēsous Christos (lit. “Lord Jesus Christ”)—thus, Paul identifies Jesus as the Yahweh of Isaiah 45:23 (cf. vv. 21-25). For Yahweh, which is translated kurios in the LXX, is the name that the Son possessed. Hence, Paul places kurios in the emphatic position15 emphasizing the Son’s exaltation as Yahweh—the name that belonged to Him.16

John 10:30

“I and the Father are one”

Colossians 1:15 is a Jehovah’s Witnesses favorite and most utilized verse, because it calls Jesus “the firstborn of all creation,” as if this verse teaches that He was created.17 This text is probably the single most cited passage in all Oneness dialogues. Its significance to this movement is rather straightforward: Jesus said, “I and the Father are one,” therefore, Jesus and the Father are the same Person. Moreover, the use of this text is not new to the modern era, for there have been many through the centuries who have sought to maintain the Oneness premise by appealing to this verse. But again, is this what the text is asserting? Is this what Jesus meant? A careful look at the passage in its grammatical structure, actually proves the very opposite of the Oneness assertion. Sabellius himself utilized this passage.

First, Jesus does not say that He “is” the Father, only that He and the Father “are” one. The Greek reads: egō kai ho patēr hen esmen (lit. “I and the Father one we are”). Simply, the verb esmen (“are”) is plural in the Greek, hence, Jesus did not say, “I and the Father am [eimi] one,” but rather, “I and the Father are [esmen] one.” When Modalism first emerged, Christian theologians brought out this grammatical point in their apologetic refutation. For example, Tertullian grammatically refutes the John 10:30 assertions made by the modalists of his day:

He says, “My Father, which gave them to me, is greater than all,” adding immediately, “I am and my Father are one.” Here, then, they take their stand, too infatuated, nay, too blind, to see in the first place that there is in this passage an intimation of Two Beings–“I and my Father;” then that there is a plural predicate, “are,”—inapplicable to one person. . . .They argue that this passage teaches that Jesus unquestionably claims to be His own Father.18

In the same way, early church polemicist and defender of Christian Orthodoxy, Hippolytus, corrects the grammatical error of the first known modalist, Noetus of Smyrna:

If, again, he [Noetus] alleges His [Christ’s] own word when He said, “I and the Father are one,” let him attend to the fact, and understand that He did not say, “I and the Father am one, but are one.” For the word are, is not said of one person, but it refers to two persons, and one power (emphasis added).19

Lastly, there is another grammatical element, which is normally overlooked by Oneness believers. The word translated “one” (hen) is in the neuter gender. In Greek, the neuter hen indicates unity of essence not absolute identity.20 If Jesus wanted to communicate that He was Himself the Father, He certainly would have used the masculine heis (cf. Mark 12:29; 1 Tim. 2:5). Renowned Greek grammarian A. T. Robertson comments on the specific application of the neuter hen in John 10:30: “One (hen). Neuter, not masculine (heis). Not one person (cf. heis in Gal. 3:28), but one essence or nature.”21 Likewise, New Testament scholar Murray Harris observers that

This dual conception of “distinction of person-community of essence” also comes to expression in John 10:30, egw kai o pathr en esmen, which refers to neither personal identity (which would require eiV esmen) nor simply to agreement to of will and purpose (since John 10:28b, 29b implies at least an equality of power).22

In his competent commentary on the Gospel of John, biblical exegete David J. Ellis notes:

The neuter gender rules out any thought of meaning ‘one Person.’ This is not a comment on the nature of the Godhead. Rather, having spoken of the sheep’s security in both Himself and the Father, Jesus underlines what He has said by indicating that in action the Father and He can be regarded as a single entity, because their wills are one.23

The grammatical certainty of the passage terminates the Oneness presupposition mainly due to the plural verb esmen (“are”) and the neuter hen (“one”) being utilized rather than the masculine heis. Thus, John 10:30 actually contradicts Oneness theology. As Robertson concludes: “By the plural sumus [“are”] (separate persons) Sabellius is refuted, by unum [“one in essence”] Arius.”24 For if that was the message that Jesus wanted to convey why did He not plainly do so? After all, He was a masterful communicator. On the contrary, He taught the opposite of what Oneness preachers are forcing their followers to believe.

John 14:9

Jesus said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show is the Father’?

This passage is routinely quoted by the Oneness people, usually in the same breath with John 10:30—as though they were part of the same verse. Removing this verse from the immediate context, Oneness teachers manage to squeeze-out a modalistic understanding. To start with, as in John 10:30, Jesus never said in this passage (or anywhere else in the NT) that He Himself was the Father, only that “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” More than that, there are four exegetical features, which provide a lucid refutation to the Oneness handling of the passage.

1. Context: In verse 6 Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” In verse 7, He then explains to the disciples that by knowing Him they “know” and “have seen” the Father (note the parallel: “know,” “seen”). Still not understanding, Philip said to Jesus, “show us the Father” (v. 8). Jesus then reiterated (as a corrective) that by seeing Him they can see, that is, “know” or recognize the invisible Father (v. 9). The context is apparent: by knowing and seeing Jesus (as the only way to the Father), they could really see (i.e., know/recognize) the invisible and incapable of being seen Father (cf. 1 Tim. 6:16). For Jesus makes Him known, that is, He explains Him (cf. John 1:18).25

As God, the Son in His preexistence was always (hos ōn, lit. “who being”) the prefect and “exact representation” (charaktēr) of the very Person (hupostaseōs) of Him (autou; hence, “of Him” not “as Him”; Heb. 1:3). Therefore, when they saw Jesus, they “saw” (viz. as the only way to and in exact representation) the invisible unseen Father. Further, in verse 10, Jesus clearly differentiated Himself from the Father by declaring, “The words I say are not My own. Rather it is the Father living in Me (emphasis added).”

2. The Father is spirit: When Jesus said, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father,” the only thing His disciples literally saw was Jesus’ physical body. Both Oneness believers and Trinitarians agree to that the Father is invisible and does not have a physical body. Hence, Jesus could not have meant that by seeing Him they were literally seeing the Father.

3. First and third person personal pronouns: Throughout chapter 14, Jesus clearly differentiates Himself from the Father by using first person personal pronouns (“I,” “Me,” “Mine”) to refer to Himself and third person personal pronouns (“He,” “Him,” “His”) to refer to His Father (e.g., John 14:7, 10, 16). This case of marked distinction is also evident when Jesus differentiates Himself from God the Holy Spirit:

“I will ask the Father, and He will give you another [allon; see n. 13 below] Helper, that He may be with you forever” (John 14:16; also see 14:7, 10, 26; emphasis added).

4. Different prepositions: Throughout John chapter 14 (and chaps. 15-16), Jesus distinguishes Himself from His Father by using different prepositions. This use of different prepositions “shows a relationship between them,”26 and clearly denotes essential distinction, e.g., “no one comes to [pros] the Father but through [dia] Me” (John 14:6); “he who believes in [eis] Me . . . I am going to [pros] the Father” (v. 12; cf. also John 15:26; 16:28). Paul, too, regularly uses different prepositions to clearly differentiate the Father from the Son. In Ephesians 2:18, Paul teaches that by the agency of the Son, Christians have access to the Father by means of the Spirit:

For through Him [di’ autou; the Son] we both have our access in [en] one Spirit to the Father [pros ton patera] (Eph. 2:18).

Only by circumventing these points can Modalism be established from John 14:9. Tragically, we see the external influence of both tradition and the authority of the Oneness church on its adherents, robbing passages like John 14:9 of their true contextual meaning.

Colossians 2:9

For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form.

What I find is that most Oneness believers, including UPCI leaders and teachers, are not biblically coherent to the fact that the very foundation of the doctrine of the Trinity is unequivocal, unmodified monotheism: one true God. However, as mentioned, Oneness teachers presuppose that monotheism equals one divine Person. As shown, however, monotheism is the belief in one Being and does not necessitate unitarianism.

Scripture reveals that God is an indivisible unquantifiable spirit, which cannot be separated into thirds. Thus, because God is an omnipresent Being, He exists everywhere: “But who is able to build a house for Him, for the heavens and the highest heavens cannot contain Him? . . .” (2 Chron. 2:6; cf. 6:18; Jer. 23:23-24; Heb. 4:13). Therefore, in Colossians 2:9 we would expect that “all the fullness of Deity” dwells in Christ, as it also dwells in the Father and the Holy Spirit—God cannot be divided into parts.

We should consider additionally that the book of Colossians was written as a pointed refutation against the dualistic ideology (i.e., spirit vs. matter) of Gnosticism.27 The Gnostics repudiated such an idea that the supreme God (who is pure spirit) would ever dwell in evil “matter” (e.g., Jesus’ physical body). For that reason, Paul firmly presented his argument by saying in essence: Jesus created all things, in fact, all the fullness (plērōma)28 of the supreme God (theotētos)29 presently, continuously and permanently dwells (katoikei)30 in His human flesh (sōmatikōs).”31

Thus, Paul’s sole intention and purpose in his letter to the Colossians was to refute Gnostic speculations by asserting that (a) Jesus Christ (the Son; cf. 1:14-15) was absolutely God in flesh (theotētos sōmatikōs; cf. 2:9) and (b) man could be fully reconciled in His [the Son’s] “fleshly body [sōmati tēs sarkos] through [His physical] death [dia tou thanatou]” (1:22; again emphasizing His real flesh).

Therefore, against the Gnostics, Paul specifically emphasized that in the Person of Jesus Christ dwells all the fullness of God in human flesh. Paul was not teaching here that Jesus was the Father, which would have been completely out-of-flow with his anti-Gnostic polemic (and his entire theology). Nor was Paul providing an expressive dissertation on the doctrine of the Trinity, this was not his aim. Paul’s main purpose was to present Jesus Christ as the God-man, Creator of all things, whose physical death provides redemption. The Jesus that Paul preached sliced directly through the Gnostic system. So, all the fullness of God dwells in the Son, for He is fully God, but this “fullness” does not only dwell in the Son (cf. John 1:1c).32 The Being of God is indivisibly and inseparably one. Therefore, any of the three distinct Persons can say subjectively and objectively that they, as fully God, possess ALL the fullness of God.

By way of review, the issue of the Gnostic controversy did not surround the Father, but rather it centered on the idea that the Son was fully God in human flesh. Accordingly, Paul specifically emphasized that in the Person of the Son, Jesus the Christ, “all the fullness of Deity” dwells permanently and continuously in human flesh.

kai and the Salutations of Paul

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and [kai] the Lord Jesus Christ.

The specific benchmark of the Pauline corpus was his salutations. He included them faithfully in the opening of every one of his letters. He worshipped God the Father and Jesus Christ from (apo)33 whom grace and peace flowed. As we have already seen, Paul comprehended the terms theos (“God”) and kurios (“Lord”) as equal designations of deity. Furthermore, a plain reading of the salutations, without a prior theological bias, clearly distinguishes God the Father from the Lord Jesus Christ.

Nevertheless, Oneness teachers force Modalism into the salutations by asserting that the logical conjunction kai should be translated, not as a simple connective “and,” but as the ascensive “even.” Furthermore, the salutations, they conclude, are not teaching a distinction of Persons; on the contrary, they are teaching that Jesus is the Father. For example, as Oneness teachers surmise, a more correct rendering of Galatians 1:3 would be as follows: “Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, even from our Lord Jesus Christ.” To support this Oneness grammatical assumption, Bernard attempts to explain Greek grammar to unlearned Oneness devotees in his most recognized book:

A study of Greek is very interesting in connection with theses greeting passages. The word translated ‘and” is the from the Greek word kai. It can be translated as “and” or as “even” (in the sense of “that is” or “which is the same as”). For example, the KJV translates kai as “and” in II Corinthians 1:2 but as “even” in verse 3 [Bernard then proceeds to give a few more examples]. . . . So the greetings could read just as easily “from God our Father, even the Lord Jesus Christ. . . .”34

Someone once said ‘a little Greek is dangerous thing,’ Bernard shows this maxim to be true. Fundamentally, however, there are two fatal flaws to the kai equals “even” argument as applied to the Pauline salutations: grammatically and theologically.

Grammatically: The Oneness grammatical assumption is that kai should be translated as “even” in all of the salutations of Paul. However, assertions are nothing more than assertions; they do not prove anything. What Bernard and other modalists do not exegetically consider is that the predominate usage of the logical conjunction kai in the New Testament is the connective “and”—not the ascensive (“even”).35

Unquestionably, then, the burden of proof falls headlong on the one who would assert that kai should be translated as “even” (viz. being the ascensive conj. as in Eph. 5:3: “even [kai] be named among you . . .”; emphasis added). Oneness teachers, though, offer no grammatical or contextual justification to support their view—they merely assert it to be true. Specifically, unless the context deems otherwise, in light of the plain normal predominate New Testament usage, the logical conjunction kai should be translated as the simple connective “and,” not the ascensive “even.”

Furthermore, according to Greek grammar (e.g., Granville Sharp’s rule #5),36 when there are multiple personal nouns in a clause that are connected by kai and the first noun lacks the article (ho [“the”]), each noun must denote a distinct person.37 This is seen in ALL of the Pauline salutations.38 In fact, in the salutations of ten of his letters, all the personal nouns lack the article, clearly distinguishing the Father and Jesus Christ (see also 2 John 3). Observing the specific grammatical features that distinguish the Father from the Son in the salutations, Murray Harris notes:

The formula qeoV kai kurioV in reference to one person is not found in the NT or LXX and is rare elsewhere . . . whenever qeoV and kurioV Ihsouj cristoV are conjoined or occur in close proximity (viz., within the same sentence), two person are always being referred to (31 instances).39

In spite of that, Oneness teachers must force their pre-decided theology into the salutations to avoid the obvious: Jesus and His Father are two distinct Persons.

Theologically: Due to their a priori unitarian assumption, Oneness teachers force the most unnatural rendering into the text. On the contrary, Christians do not have to read into passages to support the doctrine Trinity. The end result of the Oneness hermeneutic is the wholesale abandonment of the clear reading of the text. The natural reading is jettisoned, and the most unnatural reading is forced. Otherwise, the passages, as they read, yield unmistakably the truth that Jesus and the Father are two distinct Persons.

In conclusion, the unipersonal deity of Modalism is nonexistent in the salutations. Scripture presents, unambiguously, the Father and the Son as two distinct, self-aware Persons. Paul’s audience to which he was writing would have never understood the salutations as teaching that Jesus was both the Father and the Son. The normal bare reading of the entire Pauline corpus clearly denotes a tri-personal God:

He [God the Father] saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior (Titus 3:5-6; emphasis added; cf. also Rom. 14:17-18; 2 Cor. 13:14; Eph. 2:18; 1 Thess. 1:3-5).

Additional Considerations

The Old Testament Law was clear: “On the evidence of TWO witnesses or three witnesses, he who is to die shall be put to death; he shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness” (Deut. 17:6; emphasis added). To validate His testimony Jesus Christ referred to the Old Testament Law, which was authoritative to the Jews:

“But even if I do judge, My judgment is true; for I am not alone in it, but I and the Father who sent Me. Even in your law it has been written that the testimony of two men is true. I am He who testifies about Myself, and the Father who sent Me testifies about Me” (John 8:16-18; emphasis added).

Jesus said TWO, which the Jews would have understood to mean—simply two. He did not say His divine nature testifies for His human nature; that would not work well with the Jews.

There are also further considerations that militate against the Oneness conclusion that Jesus is the Father:

1. The Oneness unitarian position denies the Son’s preexistence: Example: it (a) denies the Son as the Creator,40 (b) denies the Son’s preexistence, (c) denies the biblical teaching of the incarnation by asserting that the Father, not the Son, came down and wrapped Himself (not became) flesh,41 (d) denies Jesus’ role as Mediator between God (the Father) and man (cf. 1 Tim. 2:5). By definition, a mediator is someone other than the recipient being mediated, (e) denies Jesus as Intercessor (cf. Rom. 8:34). Jesus cannot intercede before the Father on behalf of the believer if He Himself is the Father. How can Jesus be “Intercessor” if He is the Father? For whom does He intercede? And (f), Oneness theology denies Jesus as the substitutionary atoning sacrifice that provided satisfaction before the Father [i.e., hilasmos (“propitiation”); cf. 1 John 2:1]. If Jesus is both the Father and the Son, to whom did His sacrifice on the cross provide satisfaction? 42

2. Jesus’ usage of first person plural verbs: As discussed above, Oneness believers are unmoved by Jesus’ use of first person pronouns to refer to Himself and third person pronouns to refer to the Father (and the Holy Spirit; e.g., John 14: 7, 10, 16-17; 26; 15:10; 16:13-14; 17:5). But what is extraordinarily difficult for Oneness believers to reconcile is when Jesus distinguishes Himself from His Father by using first person plural verbs (eleusometha, “We will come,” and poiēsometha, “We will make”) to both Himself and His Father, which clearly distinguishes Himself from His Father (cf. also cf. Gen. 1:26-27; 3:22; 11:7-9; and Isa. 6:8). The use of the first person plural verbs here to refer to Himself and Father obliterates the unipersonal Jesus view:

Jesus answered and said to them, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him, and make Our home with him” (John 14:23; emphasis added).

Let us stop for a moment and ask the following question, if Modalism is true then, why did Jesus give the impression that He was distinct from the Father and the Holy Spirit?

3. Subject-Object Distinctions: Simply, if Jesus and the Father were not distinct cognizant Persons, we would not expect to find a clear subject-object relationship between them:

After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water . . . behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is My [subject] beloved Son, [object] in whom I [subject] am well-pleased” (Matt. 3:16-17; emphasis added; see also, Matt. 17:5).

“I [subject] glorified You [object] on earth, having accomplished the work which You [object] have given Me [subject] to do” (John 17:4; see also Luke 23:34, 46).

The Father and the Son stand in an “I”–“You” relationship of each other; the Son refers to the Father as “You” and Himself as “I.” The Father likewise refers to Jesus as “You” and Himself as “I.” The Son personally relates to the Father and the Holy Spirit, and the reverse is altogether true of the Father and the Holy Spirit relating to each other.

4. The early church universally rejected Modalism: Since its inception, Modalism (and dynamic monarchianism) has been universally rejected by the early church.43

5. The majority of biblical scholarship throughout church history (and subsequently) has rejected Modalism: One should take into account that the world’s greatest biblical scholars, theologians, and grammarians are (and have been) greatly opposed to Oneness theology. As with the Watchtower, there are no recognized Greek grammarians or biblical scholars involved with or endorse the UPCI or any other Oneness organization.

Final Thought

Jesus (nor His apostles) ever claimed He was the Father. The writers of the New Testament (and Jesus Himself) identified Him as the “Son” never as the Father. As seen above, Boyd observed, “Over fifty times Jesus and the Father are rendered distinct in the same verse.” Also significant, is the way in which Scripture presents Jesus and the Father interacting with each other as two distinct Persons (e.g., Jesus prayed to the Father; the “I”–“You” subject-object relationship that existed between the Father and the Son; first to third person personal pronoun references). In addition to the personal interaction among the Persons are the particular grammatical features, which clearly denote genuine distinction between the Father and the Son.44

That Jesus is both the Father and the Son turns their intimate relationship into a mere simulation. Consider the way in which the Persons intimately and lovingly relate to one another: “The Father loves the Son and has given Him all things into His hand” (John 3:35; cf. 5:20; 10:17). The Son really does love the Father: “so that the world may know that I love the Father, I do exactly as the Father commanded Me. . . .” (John 14:31). In the same way, the Holy Spirit really does love the believer (cf. Rom. 15:30). Oneness advocates, though, believe that it was merely the “Father” mode loving the “Son” mode. That is, Jesus’ human nature loving His own divine nature. By way of definition and logic, however, two abstract natures cannot have fellowship and love for each other—natures cannot intellectually express emotion. Natures can neither give love nor receive love for they are not self-aware nor cognizant. Only conscious persons are capable of giving love and receiving love. The Son was the object of the Father’s love. In Scripture, all three Persons give as well as receive love (e.g., John 11:5; 14:23; Rom, 15:30; 2 Cor. 13:14; 2 Thess. 2:16; Jude 1:1).45

Jesus is the God-man, the very image and perfect representation of His Father (cf. John 1:18; Heb. 1:3). In His preexistence (cf. John 1:1-3; Col. 1:16-17), He had loving intercourse and glory with the Father before time (cf. John 1:1; 17:5). He, as the Son, is the divine Priest (cf. Heb. 7:1ff.) who revealed His Father to mankind (cf. John 1:18). The Son is the only Mediator between the Father and man (cf. 1 Tim. 2:5). Thus, it was Jesus Christ, the monogenēs theos (“one and only God”; cf. John 1:18), who said, “no one comes to [pros] the Father but through [dia] Me (John 14:6; emphasis added). The unipersonal theology nullifies Jesus’ own authentication. The testimony of TWO, Jesus affirms, validates His testimony:

If I alone testify about Myself, My testimony is not true. There is ANOTHER [allos: other than the one speaking]46 who testifies of Me, and I know that the testimony which He gives about Me is true” (John 5:31-32 emphasis added; cf. 8:17-18).

Jesus and the biblical authors utilized plain uncomplicated language that demonstrated real distinction exiting simultaneously between the Persons of the triune Godhead. The essential distinction between the Father and the Son47 were not merely ‘distinctions of illusory,’ modes, or functions, but actual:

“For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son, also gives life to whom He wishes. . . . For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” (John 5:21; 6:38; emphasis added).

Notes

1 David K. Bernard, The Oneness of God (Hazelwood: Word Aflame, 1983), 294-95.

2 Although Gregory Boyd has skillfully provided a pointed refutation against Oneness Pentecostalism and has disarmed the liberal scholarship of the “Jesus Seminar” (e.g., Jesus Under Siege [Wheaton: Victor Books, 1995]), I am in full disagreement with his views on “open theism” (cf. Gregory A, Boyd, God of the Possible: A Biblical Introduction to the Open View of God [Grand Rapids: Baker, 2000]). See Bruce A. Ware, God’s Lesser Glory: The Diminished God of Open Theism (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2000), wherein Ware provides a blow-by-blow refutation against the hyper-Arminian system of “open theism.”

3 Gregory A. Boyd, Oneness Pentecostals & The Trinity (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1992), 68-69.

4 Consequently, the KJV (the UPCI’s standard translation) agrees that the term “father” was not a formal title for Jehovah. In recognition of this fact, the KJV did not capitalize “father” in Malachi 2:10 (as with most translations). Hence, the KJV saw “father” signifying God as “Creator” and not the NT revelation of the capitalized formal title “Father.”

5 Robert M. Bowman, Jr., Why You Should Believe in the Trinity: An Answer to Jehovah’s Witnesses (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1989), 73.

6 Benjamin B. Warfield, Biblical Doctrines (Carlisle: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1929), 220.

7 Lawrence O. Richards, New International Encyclopedia of Bible Words (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1991), 266.

8 Cf. Edward J. Young, Commentary on the Book of Isaiah (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1970), 331.

9 Richards, New International Encyclopedia of Bible Words.

10 The Targums were Aramaic translations of the Hebrew Bible interspersed with rabbinic commentary, which the Jews utilized as early as Ezra (Neh. 8:1-8) (cf. Norman L. Geisler and William E. Nix, A General Introduction to the Bible, rev. ed. [Chicago: Moody Press, 1986], 501-2).

11 E. Calvin Beisner, “Jesus Only” Churches (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998), 32.

12 Bernard, The Oneness of God, 126-27.

13 BDAG defines allos here as “pert. to that which is other than some other entity, other . . . distinguished fr. the subject who is speaking or who is logically understood. . . .” (Walter Bauer, A Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd ed., ed. and rev. Frederick W. Danker [hereafter BDAG] [Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000], 46).

14 Thus, the work of salvation is accomplished solely by mutual operation of the three Persons (i.e., soteriological Trinity.

15 Most English translations read, “Jesus Christ is Lord,” whereas the Greek reads, kurios Iēsous Christos (lit. “Lord Jesus Christ”). In biblical Greek, the placement of a word in a sentence was not dependent on the subject-verb word order, but rather on emphasis. Hence, in verse 11, the anarthrous predicate nominative kurios, occupies the emphatic position (i.e., first word of the clause): “Lord Jesus Christ” (cf. John 1:1c: kai theos ēn ho logos [lit. “God was the Word”]; also cf. 4:24). Thus, Paul coherently emphasizes to his readers that Jesus IS the Lord (viz. Yahweh; cf. Rom. 14:11; Isa. 45:23)

16 Cf. Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament, with Scripture, Subject, and Greek Word Indexes (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 474; Robert L. Reymond, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith [Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1998], 312.

17 In Colossians 1:15, Paul calls Jesus prōtotokos (“firstborn”). From this, Jehovah’s Witnesses erroneously think “firstborn” means, “first created.” But this assertion would be totally foreign in a first century Jewish context. The term prōtotokos denotes “supremacy” or “first in rank” (cf. Exod. 4:22; Ps. 89:27) as the context of Colossians indicates. The anarthrous (i.e., without the article) prōtotokos denotes Jesus as “having special status associated with a firstborn” (BDAG, 894). Noted biblical exegete Robert Reymond extracts the true significance of the term:

Paul’s intention behind his description of Jesus as “the Firstborn of all creation” is a universe away from the Arian interpretation of the Jehovah’s Witnesses that would insist that the word shows that the Son was the “first” of all other created things; the entire context demands the term is to be understood in the Hebraic sense as an ascription of priority of rank to the firstborn son who enjoys a special place in the father’s love. (Reymond, Systematic Theology, 251).

If Paul wanted to convey that Jesus was “first-created,” he certainly could have used the word prōtoktistos meaning “first-created” to do so (as in 2 Cor. 5:18: kainē ktisis [“new creation”]). Hence, Jesus was not the first creature for He was Creator of all things, whereby in everything He had supremacy (prōteuōn; Col. 1:18). See The New World Translation in which I deal with the Watchtower’s abusive treatment of the Greek NT, in their translation: The New World Translation.

18 Tertullian, Against Praxeas, 22, ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, in The Ante-Nicene Fathers: Translations of the Writings of the Fathers down to A.D. 325 [hereafter ANF], vol. 3 (1885-1887; reprint, Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994).

19 Hippolytus, Against the Heresy of One Noetus, 7, in ANF, vol. 5.

20 Cf. BDAG, 291; Joseph H. Thayer, Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (1896; reprint, with Strong’s numbering added by Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody: Hendrickson, 1996), 186.

21 Archibald T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1933), 5:186.

22 Murray J. Harris, Jesus as God: The New Testament Usage of Theos in Reference to Jesus (Grand Rapids, Baker, 1992), 285, n. 38.

23 David J. Ellis, “John,” in The International Bible Commentary, with the New International Version, ed. F. F. Bruce (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979), 1249.

24 Robertson, Word Pictures, 5:186.

25 In John 1:18, John says that “No one has seen God [the Father] at any time, the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.” The word translated “explained” is exēgēsato (the aorist middle indicative of echēgeomai), which means “to lead out . . . to unfold, declare” (Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon, 223). Hence, it is God the Son who is the very image (eikōn) of the invisible Father (cf. Col. 1:15) who brings out, that is, exegetes the Father. “He [Jesus] has made known or brought news of (the invisible God)” (BDAG, 349).

26 Beisner, “Jesus Only” Churches, 34. Additionally, the repetition of the preposition distinguishes the Father and the Son as two distinct self-aware Subjects (e.g., 1 John 1:3; “Grammatical Distinctions”)).

27 I am using the term “Gnostic” (from gnōsis, meaning “knowledge”) broadly to describe the various first and second century sects who share the same basic doctrinal characteristics: spirit vs. matter. Because formal Gnosticism had not yet been developed, critics attack the Pauline authorship of Colossians. It was not, however, the fully developed system that Paul (and John; cf. 1 & 2 John) dealt with. Rather Paul grappled with the main theological predilections of Gnostic philosophy, which was wide-ranging in the first century. Despite philosophical dissimilarities, all Gnostics at least shared one common thread: spirit was good and matter was evil. This system was also described later as “Doceticism” (from dokein, meaning “to seem,” which was first expressed by Serapion of Antioch, c. A.D. 200). However, both generally held to the spirit vs. matter dualistic system. So accordingly, they did not believe that Jesus (a good god or “aeon,” cf. Cerinthus) would ever become something as evil as material flesh. The mere thought of Jesus becoming and remaining in human flesh (cf. 1 John 4:2-3) was utterly repugnant to them.

28 The term translated “fullness” is plērōma. This term was well familiar in Gnostic theology. In Gnostic thinking, the supreme God dwelled in the plērōma and aeons (as with Christ] emanated from him.

29 Recognized Greek lexicographer Joseph Thayer defines theotētos as: “the state of being God” (Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon, 288. Reymond defines the word as “the being of the very essence of deity” (Reymond, Systematic Theology, 252).

30 The word translated “dwells” is katoikei, which is the present active indicative of katoike. The present tense indicates that the “fullness” of absolute “Deity” dwells in Christ permanently and continuously. Hence, there was no beginning of Christ’s Deity.

31 The Greek term sōmatikōs (“bodily”) denotes the physical body of Jesus Christ. Hence, the fullness of “Deity” (which was always subsisting in Him; cf. Phil. 2:6) permanently and continuously dwells now in the physical body of the two-natured Person, the Son of God Jesus Christ (cf. John 1:14).

32 John 1:1c reads: kai theos ēn ho logos (lit. “and God was the Word”). That theos (“God”) is anarthrous leaves room for the other Members of the Trinity as also belonging to the category of theos. Thus, the anarthrous pre-verbal predicate nominative theos describes the essential (ontological) quality of the logos (“Word”) without excluding the Holy Spirit as belonging to the same category—theos (cf. Acts 5:3-5; and Acts 28:25-27 cf. with Isa. 6:1, 9-10; Heb. 3:7-11 cf. with Ps. 95:7-11; and Heb. 10:15 cf. with Jer. 31:33-34).

33 In the salutations, Paul clearly delivers his point: the grace and peace is from (apo) God the Father and the Lord Jesus. Paul did not say that the grace and peace is from God the Father through (dia) the Lord Jesus Christ, as if Jesus were a mere instrument and not the direct source of the grace and peace. Paul’s passion swells when he stresses that the grace and peace flows equally from both the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (due to the Gk. prep. apo) in which both Persons are the objects of Paul’s praise.

34 Bernard, The Oneness of God, 208-9.

35 There are 9,153 instances kai in the NT (cf. William D. Mounce, Basics of Biblical Greek Grammar [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1993], 422). Of the total NT occurrences of kai, 4,829 times it is translated (in virtually every translation) as the simple connective “and,” with only 97 times as the ascensive “even” (cf. John R. Kohlenberger, III, Edward W. Goodrick, James A. Swanson, The Greek-English Concordance to the New Testament [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1997], 401).

36 This rule is named after its founder (not inventor) Granville Sharp (A.D. 1735-1813; cf. Granville Sharp, Remarks on the Uses of the Definite Article in the Greek Text of the New Testament, 3rd ed. [London: Vernor & Hood, 1803]). Because of his passion and solid belief in the deity of Jesus Christ, Sharp’s grammatical research of the Greek New Testament led him to discover six grammatical rules. These six rules mainly had to do with the grammatical constructions wherein the Greek conjunction kai is utilized. Remarking on the validity of Sharp’s grammatical rules, Beisner explains that

Those who know Greek can confirm the accuracy of the conclusions drawn here by consulting C. Kuehne, “The Greek Article and the Doctrine of Christ’s Deity,” Journal of Theology: Church of the Lutheran Confession 13, no. 3 (September 1973): 12-28; 13, no. 4 (December 1973): 14-30; 14, no. 1 (March 1974): 8-19; 15, no. 1 (March 1975): 8-22, in which Kuehne brilliantly explains, illustrates, and defends the six parts of Sharp’s rule (Beisner, “Jesus Only” Churches, 46).

Rule #1 is most recognized, though. Without quoting the rule verbatim, the rule states that when the connective kai (“and”) connects two nouns of the same case (only singular nouns that are not proper, that is, nouns that cannot be pluralized, e.g., personal names; etc.), and the article ho (“the”) precedes the first noun but not the second each noun refers to the first named person. Example, Titus 2:13 reads: tēn makarian elpida kai epiphaneian tēs doxēs tou megalou theou kai sōtēros hēmōn Christou Iēsou (“expecting the blessed hope and appearance of the glory of the [tou] great God and [kai] Savior of us Christ Jesus”).

Thus, theou (“God”) and sōtēros (“Savior”) are the two descriptive singular nouns, which are connected by kai (“and”) and the article tou (“the”) is in front of theou (“God”) and not sōtēros (“Savior”) thus Jesus Christ is tou megalou theou kai sōtēros: “THE great GOD and Savior.” And according most Greek grammarians (e.g., A. T. Robertson), this rule is invariably absolute. Also, we find the rule as applied to the deity of Christ at 2 Thessalonians 1:12 and 2 Peter 1:1 where Jesus is called tou . . . theou (“the . . . God”). Most students of Greek grammar are quite familiar with Sharp’s rule #1, hence many Oneness writers mistakenly assume that Sharp only had this one rule.

37 Ibid.; cf. Beisner, “Jesus Only” Churches, 36, 46.

38 E.g., charis humin kai eirēnē apo theou patros hēmōn kai kuriou Iēsou Christou (“grace to you and peace from God Father of us and Lord Jesus Christ”). However, the earliest manuscripts of Colossians do not contain the last phrase kai kuriou Iēsou Christou (“and Lord Jesus Christ”; 1:2) as in the customary rendering of the salutations. Hence, some late manuscripts added the phrase. Further, the salutations in the pastoral letters contain a variant reading as compared to Paul’s earlier salutations. In 1 and 2 Timothy (v. 2) the Greek reads: charis eleos eirēnē apo theou patros kai Christou Iēsou tou kuriou hēmōn (“grace, mercy, peace from God Father and Christ Jesus the Lord of us”). What is more, as compared to the salutations in 1 and 2 Timothy, in Titus 1:4, Paul substitutes sōtēros, (“Savior”) for kuriou (“Lord”): charis kai eirēnē apo theou patros kai Christou Iēsou tou sōtēros hēmōn (lit. “grace and peace from God Father and Christ Jesus the Savior of us”). Nevertheless, the case of the missing articles before the first noun theou (“God”) in the salutations of all three pastoral letters thoroughly protects against the couriers of Modalism. What is clear, the salutations openly expose Paul’s conception of God as a multiple-personal Being.

39 Harris, Jesus as God, 266.

40 As briefly seen,, in Oneness theology, Jesus as the preexistent Father mode was the Creator. Therefore, since only the Father mode existed before time, Oneness teachers will conclude that the “manifestation” of the “Son” had its beginning at Bethlehem. As seen, Bernard explains that not only did the Son have a beginning, but also the Son will have an end:

The Sonship—or the role of the Son—began with the child conceived in the womb of Mary. . . . From all of these verses, it is easy to see that the Son is not eternal, but was begotten by God almost 2000 years ago (Bernard, The Oneness of God, 104-5).

Oneness teachers have no problem denying the Son as Creator in the face of Paul presenting the Son as the Agent of creation (cf. Col. 1:16-17; 1 Cor. 8:6).

41 John 1:14 declares that ho logos sarx egeneto (“the Word became flesh”). The Greek here clearly indicates that the eternal Word (cf. John 1:1a) did not simply “wrap” Himself in flesh as one would put on an outfit or a costume, but rather He actually BECAME (egeneto) flesh (sarx). Unfortunately, too many pastors and commentators miss the grammatical significance of this passage and declare that “God wrapped Himself in flesh” (a popular epithet among them). Hence, they unknowingly gratify Oneness believers who think that it was God the Father that put on or wrapped Himself in a flesh-body without actually becoming flesh. As if the Father dressed in or put flesh on, as an actor would put on a mask without, of course, becoming the person that he or she is playing.

42 The work of salvation is accomplished solely by mutual operation of the three Persons (i.e., soteriological Trinity)).

43 Universally and unambiguously, the early church rejected Modalism (all forms) and condemned those who promulgated it.

44 E.g., the case of the missing articles in the salutations of Paul (viz. Sharp’s rule #5); repeated and different prepositions (cf. n. 26 above); the repetition of the article; and subject-object distinctions between the Father and the Son.

45 There was Personal Loving Fellowship between the Persons of the Trinity.

46 Cf. n. 13 above.

47 Moreover, the real distinction of the Father and Son from the Holy Spirit is, if not more, just as abundant.