Trinity, Holy (in the Bible)
TRINITY, HOLY (IN THE BIBLE)
In a long tradition with roots in the early patristic period, Christian writers have identified certain revelations of God in the Old Testament (OT) as containing representations or foreshadowings of the Trinity. In the strict sense, however, God is not explicitly revealed as Trinity in the OT. In the New Testament (NT) the oldest evidence of this revelation is in the Pauline epistles, especially 2 Cor 13.13, and 1 Cor 12.4–6. In the Gospels much of the evidence of the Trinity has to do with the revelation of the relation between the Father and the Son. The only direct statement of Trinitarian revelation is the baptismal formula of Mt 28.19.
In the Old Testament. On account of the polytheistic religions of Israel's pagan neighbors, it was necessary for the teachers of Israel to stress the oneness of God. In many places of the OT, however, expressions are used in which some of the Fathers of the Church saw references or foreshadowings of the Trinity. The personified use of such terms as the Word of God [Ps 32 (33).6] and the spirit of god (Is 63.14) reflects poetic license, though it does show a sense for a self-communication of God to the world in which the divine force is distinct from God, is not part of the world, and is not a being intermediate between God and the world. Such language shows that the minds of God's people were being prepared for the concepts that would be involved in the forthcoming revelation of the doctrine of the Trinity.
In the New Testament. The revelation of the truth of the triune life of God was first made in the NT, where the earliest references to it are in the Pauline Epistles. The doctrine is most easily seen in St. Paul's recurrent use of the terms God, Lord, and Spirit. What makes his use of these terms so significant is that they appear against a strictly monotheistic background.
In the Pauline Epistles. The clearest instance of this usage is found in 2 Cor 13.13, "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all." This blessing is perhaps a quotation from the early Christian liturgy. The grammatical usage in this blessing, especially the subjective genitives το[symbol omitted] κυρίου 'Ιησο[symbol omitted] Χριστο[symbol omitted] … το[symbol omitted]θεο[symbol omitted] … το[symbol omitted]ἁγίου πνεύματος gives us a basis not only for the distinction of persons, but also for their equality inasmuch as all the benefits are to flow from the one Godhead.
Another example of Paul's probable reference to the Trinity by his use of the triad, Spirit, Lord, God, can be seen in 1 Cor 12.4–6. Here, in speaking of the spiritual gifts or charisms that are bestowed upon Christians, he says, "Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of ministries, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of workings, but the same God, who works all things in all." This passage witnesses to the doctrine of the Trinity by ascribing the various charisms, viz, gifts, ministries, and workings, to the Spirit, the Lord (the Son), and God (the Father), respectively. Since all these charisms of their very nature demand a divine source, the three Persons are put on a par, thus clearly indicating their divine nature while at the same time maintaining the distinction of persons.
In the Gospels. The only place in the Gospels where the three divine Persons are explicitly mentioned together is in St. Matthew's account of Christ's last command to His Apostles, "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit" (Mt 28.19). In this commission Christ commands the Apostles to baptize all men "in the name of" the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The expression "in the name of" (εἰς τὸ ὄνομα, literally, "into the name") indicates a dedication or consecration to the one named. Thus Christian baptism is a dedication or consecration to God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Since the Son and the Holy Spirit are mentioned here on a par with the Father, the passage clearly teaches that they are equally divine with the Father, who is obviously God. These words testify to the belief of the Apostolic Church in a doctrine of three Persons in one God.
The accounts of the baptism of the lord as described in Mt 3.13–17; Mk 1.9–11; Lk 3.21–22; Jn1.32–34 have been understood by older scholars as indications of the doctrine of the Trinity. Modern scholars, however, see rather in these accounts references to the authoritative anointing of Jesus as the Messiah. Yet in the light of the fullness of revelation, the possibility is not to be excluded that the Evangelists had the doctrine of the Trinity in mind when they described this event.
See Also: johannine comma.
Bibliography: j. lebreton, "La Révélation de la Sainte Trinité," La Vie spirituelle 74 (Paris 1946) 225–240. e. b. allo, Saint Paul: Première epître aux Corinthiens [Études bibliques (Paris 1956) 323]. j. schmid, Das Evangelium nach Matthäus (Regensburg 1956). k. rahner, "Trinity, Divine," in Sacramentum Mundi v. 6, 295–297; "Theos in the New Testament," Theological Investigations 1 (London 1961) 79–148. w. kasper, The God of Jesus Christ (New York 1984). a. wainwright, The Trinity in the New Testament (London 1962).