There is no authority in either the Old or New Testament of the Bible for the existence of the Trinity. Christianity in the age of the apostles as we glean from the New Testament always speaks of God in the singular and is entirely devoid of the idea of a Trinity or attributing to Jesus a Divinity. Rather, it was the product of a gradual evolution when Christianity came under pagan influence and incorporated many of its features, finally to be summed up by Athanasius: ‘The Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God, and yet there are not three but One God’.
Thus it came to be known as the Athanasian Creed, though even Athanasius who is considered the father of the creed, was unsure of its truth, confessing that whenever he forced his understanding to mediate on the divinity of Jesus, his toilsome and unavailing efforts recoiled on themselves, and that the more he wrote, the less capable was he of expressing his thoughts. To this day, the idea of Trinity is unclear to most Christians. This core, this very foundation of the faith of the mainstream churches is not crystal clear to its adherents! What more can I say? How can you have blind belief in such an idea without being able to comprehend it? Not just little children, even ripened scholars find it difficult to come to grasp with it, so unlike the simple yet profound idea of God’s Unity Islam teaches and which even little kids can understand. Yes, the very bedrock of Islam, its uncompromising monotheism is clear to all, while the church has built its foundations on a very faulty premise that even the most erudite of its flock cannot comprehend.
Biblical scripture nowhere teaches anything about a triple god known as the Trinity, this ridiculous idea that there are three separate beings, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost residing in the person of One God and who are both one and many at the same time. In fact the idea entered the church only a couple of centuries after Christ when Tertullian who lived in the second century officially introduced the term Trinitas into Christianity by way of his writings. It was further popularized by his contemporary Theophilus in the form triados and finally crystallised as a firm doctrine best captured in the words of the Catholic Church: ‘The Father is God, the Son is God and the Holy Spirit is God, and yet there are not three gods but One God. The persons are co-eternal and co-equal; all alike are uncreated and competent’.
The idea was not introduced all of a sudden. It had Pagan antecedents since a triad of divinities was found in many cultures of the old world, the result perhaps of sanctifying things in threes inspired by the three basic elements of earth, air and water, or the three basic states of solid, liquid and gas or three levels of material existence, mineral, plant and animal, or else inspired by an equally materalistic view of the deities forming a family as humans do, as seen in the Egyptian Osiris, Isis and Horus. Either way, it eventually led to a triad of deities as seen in the Sumerian Anu, Enlil and Enki, the Greek Zeus, Athena and Apollo, the Roman Jupiter, Mars, Quirinus and Old Germanic Wotan, Wili and Weh. The leading Pagan minds of the time, used as they were to the old order of things in threes to which they attached great superstitious significance could not easily break free of the idea. It is no surprise therefore that when they adopted Christianity they simply passed it on by subverting its original message of monotheism by corrupting it to a belief in three gods in one.
So let’s give it some serious thought. This idea of a Trinity is not just only a confusing notion, but more seriously, it undermines the Unity of God and hence ought to be anathema to the good Christian as it is to the good Muslim. The doctrine puts before the devotee three distinct beings having equal claim on his heart, thus depriving the One True Creator of our supreme affection which is His due, and His alone. But not only does it go against the Oneness of God, but also against reason.
Ask yourself: If God has three independent minds, wouldn’t the result be chaos? So even the very order we see in the universe goes against this ridiculous idea. Ask yourself again, if indeed these three are one, being different forms of the manifestation of the same divine being, inseparable and containing one another, how is it that when Jesus died on the cross, the Father and the Holy Ghost did not die with him? This dilemma or rather trilemma has led to much hair-splitting arguments with scholars spilling ink over it and martyrs spilling blood over it, and still getting nowhere. Little wonder then that Paolo Sozzini, an Italian Unitarian and a good Christian felt it necessary to expose this error, writing that “The spirit of the Anti-Christ hath not introduced more dangerous an error into the Church of Christ than this doctrine which teaches us that there are three distinct persons in the most simple essence of God each of which is itself God”.
This is why the Qur’an condemns such blasphemies in no vague terms:
It is not befitting to God that He should beget a son. Glory be to Him! When He determines a matter, He only says to it “Be” and it is”
They do blaspheme who say: “God is Christ the Son of Mary”. But said Christ: “O Children of Israel! Worship God, my Lord and your Lord”. Whoever joins other gods with God- God will forbid him the Garden, and the Hellfire will be his abode
(The Repast: 72)
They do blaspheme who say: God is one of three in a Trinity; for there is no god except One God
Now, to the question of Jesus’ birth without a human father, which both Muslims and Christians hold to be true. Is it really impossible for Jesus to have been created without a male? Take the case of Adam who was created without male or female or of Eve who was created without a female as she had no mother but was taken from Adam. Thus all possibilities of creation have been possible with God:
1) No male, no female (Adam)
2) Male, but no female (Eve)
3) Female, but no male (Jesus)
4) Male and female (Rest of humanity)
As I said, all things are possible with God. As God says in the Qur’an: “The similitude of Jesus before God is as that of Adam. He created him from dust, then said to him “Be!” and he was” (Family Imraan:59). God denounces the divinity of Christ with a further argument: “If it were Our Will, we could make angels from among you, succeeding each other on the earth” (Ornaments of Gold: 60). This is because angels are created without father or mother.
The early followers of Jesus regarded him as a prophet who had been bestowed many gifts by God, including working miracles, but not divinity. Indeed there is reason to believe that the early Christians were even more monotheistic than the Jews.
When a scribe asked Jesus about the commandments, he replied: “The first is this: Hear O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbour as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these”. The scribe said to him: “well said, teacher, you are right in saying ‘He is One and there is no other than He’. And to love Him with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices”. When Jesus saw that he answered with understanding, he said to him: “You are not far from the Kingdom of God” (Mark 12:28-34).
Jesus claimed to be no more than a Prophet. When some Pharisees told Jesus to go away, as Herod wanted to kill him, he replied: “I must continue on my way today, tomorrow, and the following day, for it is impossible that a prophet should die outside of Jerusalem” (Luke 13:33). He also stressed again and again he was no more than a man of God: “But now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth which I heard from God” (John 8:40).
Jesus said to his disciples: “The days will come when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, but you will not see it. There will be those who will say to you ‘Look there he is’ or ‘Look, here he is’. Do not go off. Do not run in pursuit. For just as lightening flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be. But first he must suffer greatly and be rejected by this generation. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be in the days of the Son of Man” (Luke 17:22-26).
Here Jesus calls himself not only the Son of Man to emphasize his human nature, but also clearly implies he is a prophet who in the tradition of Noah will be rejected by his own people.
Even in later times, when Jesus had departed from the world, we read of Jesus’ followers telling a traveler who had inquired about what sort of things they were discussing: “The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people” (Luke 24: 19). Indeed, Peter, his close disciple interpreted the saying of Moses: “A Prophet like me will the Lord, Your God, raise up for you” to refer to Jesus (Acts 3:22).
The apostles were very clear that Jesus was no more than a man. That’s why we have Peter saying: “Ye men of Israel, hear these words, Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you” (Acts 2:22). That’s why we read in the Gospel of John: “Now this is life eternal, that they might know Thee, the Only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent” (17:3).
How, it may be asked, if as the Trinitarians hold, Christ were indeed God, the apostles could continue to call Jesus a man in the Book of Acts which records their sayings, and in their many epistles? It is obvious that they regarded him as a man among men and nothing that could even approach the divine.
Now I ask how can Jesus be God or the Son of God when he himself beseeched God in the Garden of Gethsemane: “Let this cup pass from me; yet, not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39). Thus if God and Jesus have two different wills, how can they be one?
Jesus said, speaking of the Day of Judgement: “Of that Day knows no man, no, not the angels of heaven, not the Son, but the Father only” (Mark 13:32). If indeed Jesus were divine, how could he say that he does not know of that Day which God alone knows. Would that not put him in the ridiculous position of knowing and not knowing something at the same time?
Jesus expressly spoke of God as another, one other than himself. In John we read: “The father is greater than I” (14:28) and “Of my self I can do nothing” (5:30).
What all this shows is that Jesus never called himself God. All he claimed was that he was a Messenger of God to his people Israel.Did not Jesus say raising his eyes to heaven: “Now this is eternal life, that they should know you, the only True God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ. I glorified you on earth by accomplishing the work that you gave me to do” (John 17:3-4).
That he was a prophet is clear from his own words: “Whatsoever I have heard from Him, these things I speak” (John 8:26). As he himself said: “The first of all the commandments is Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is One Lord” (Mark 12:29)
And as if that were not enough, Jesus warned his followers that he would be deified, but in vain: “But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:9). Here Jesus is telling us explicitly not to worship him. What more proof do you need to show that Jesus is not God?
As for how the idea that Jesus was God’s Son arose, this is not difficult to explain. For one thing, he was born without a human father of a virgin mother. But this does not make him any less human than you or I. Was not Adam created without a human father?. Just because God creates a being and give it life, it does not mean He is its father. Further, such expressions as Children of God were used metaphorically in the Old Testament itself like when Israel is told: “You are children of the Lord, your God” (Deuteronomy 14:1). Moreover, the children of Israel are called God’s Children and He their Father in the Song of Moses:
A faithful God without deceit, how just and upright He is! Yet basely has He been treated by His degenerate children, a perverse and crooked race! Is the Lord to be thus repaid by you, O stupid and foolish people? Is He not your Father who created you?
We also read in the Song of Moses:
When the Most High assigned the nations their heritage When he parceled out the descendants of Adam
He set up the boundaries of the peoples after the number of the Sons of God
In John’s Gospel we find the disciple Nathaniel declaring of Jesus: “Rabbi, you are the Son of God, you are the King of Israel” (John 1:49). This is simply a reiteration of the title of the Davidic King in the Old Testament, where God is said to promise David: “When your time comes and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your heir after you, sprung from your loins, and I will make his kingdom firm. It is he who shall build a house for my name. And I will make his royal throne firm forever. I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me” (Samuel 7:12-14). A later Psalm has the Davidic ruler crying out “You are my Father, my God, and the Rock of my salvation” while God is said to make him “the firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth” (Psalm 89:26-27). This serves as the background of the cryptic Psalm 2:7 where Yahweh says to the king, “You are my son; this day I have begotten you.”
It is this prophecy that forms the basis of the Jewish expectation of the Messiah, the fulfillment of which the Christians saw in Jesus. Now, we ask, how could Jesus have sprung from David’s loins, if as Christians hold, he was conceived without a human father? Thus the words: “I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me” cannot apply to him. It was this paradox that prompted Paul to declare in Romans (1:3-4) that Jesus is of the seed or lineage of David in the flesh, but a “Son of God” in the Spirit.
When the Jews claimed to be the Children of God, saying “We have one father, God”, Jesus said to them: “If God were your father, you would love me, for I come from God and I am here; I did not come on my own, but he sent me. Why do you not understand what I am saying? Because you cannot bear to hear my word. You belong to your father the devil and you willingly carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks in character, because he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:41-44).
It is clear here that both Jesus and the Jews used ‘father’ for God in a metaphorical sense as their creator and cherisher. Indeed,references to Israel as the Son of God is not uncommon in the Bible. In Exodus we read: Thus saith the Lord, Israel is My Son, even my Firstborn (4:22). In Genesis we will find angels too being called Sons of God: The Sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair, and they took wives of all that they chose (6:1-2).
That Father was meant to be used metaphorically is seen even in the Lord’s Prayer which Jesus taught his followers. Here you will find the word ‘Father’ being used in a general sense as a term of address to the almighty by the faithful and not in relation to Jesus.
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your Name, Your Kingdom come, Your Will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread; and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors; and subject us not to the final test, but deliver us from the evil one
We also read in the Bible that Jesus said to Mary Magdalene: “I ascend unto my Father and your Father; and to my God, and your God” (John 20:17). Here Jesus uses the word Father for God not only in relation to himself, but to his followers, as if he were using ‘Father’ in the sense of Creator or Lord. Thus if he used ‘Father’, it was only in a metaphorical sense.
However, it is also possible that in both the Lord’s Prayer and his words to Mary Magdalene, Jesus actually used the word rab meaning ‘lord’ in his native Aramaic instead of ab ‘father’. Although the Lord’s prayer is called as such, we do not have a single reference to the word ‘Lord’ in it. This view is further supported by the fact that the Islamic Lord’s Prayer, the Sooratul Fatiha, addresses God as Rabb or ‘Lord’ in the opening lines: Alhamdulillahi Rabbil Alameen which means ‘Praise be to God, Lord of the Worlds’. It may well be that in later times, copyists of the Bible, compelled by dishonest theologians, replaced the word rab with ab.
Further, Jesus probably referred to himself as servant of God or abad alaha in his native Aramaic. When the gospel was translated into Greek the term abad ‘servant’ or ‘slave’ was rendered as pias which meant in Greek both servant as well as child. Thus pais Theou used by Luke in the Acts came to mean Son of God replacing the original meaning of Servant of God. In fact Acts 3:13 is an allusion to Isaiah 52:13 which mentions ‘the glorification of the servant’ showing that servant, not son, was the original meaning.
Likewise other passages in the Bible have also been subject to interpolation, like when Jesus is supposed to have said:
When the Son of Man comes in His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates his sheep from the goats, and He will set the sheep on His right hand but the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those on His right hand, “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you took Me in, I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.” (Matthew 25:31–36). Then He will also say to those on the left hand, “Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave Me no food, I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me. Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. (Matthew 45–46 )
Islam speaks in a very similar vein where it is not Jesus but God who judges men, as a saying of the Prophet has it:
God will say: “I asked you for food and you did not feed Me’. He (Man) will say: ‘Lord, how could I feed You when You did not ask me for food and You are the Lord of the universe?’ He will say: ‘Do you not know that My slave so-and-so asked you for food and you did not feed him? Do you not know that if you had fed him, you would have found that action with Me? Son of Adam, I asked you for water and you did not give Me water.’ The man will reply: ‘O Lord, how could I give you water when You are the Lord of the universe?’ He will say: ‘My slave so-and-so asked you for water and you did not give him water. Do you not know that if you had given him water, you would have found that action with Me? Son of Adam, I was ill and you did not visit Me.’ He will say: ‘O Lord, how could I visit You when You are the Lord of the universe?’ He will say, ‘Do you not know that My slave so-and-so was ill. If you had visited him you would have found Me with him” (Adab Al Mufrad).
Indeed, how we ask can Jesus judge all nations, when he was sent “only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” as he himself said.
To understand what really might have happened, we may have to go back in history a bit. First, you must understand that we do not have the original gospel in the very tongue spoken by Jesus, which is Aramaic, a Semitic speech adopted by Jesus’ folk after the Babylonian captivity which is actually more closely related to Arabic than to Hebrew. Whatever has come down to us was translated into Greek and later other languages. But bear in mind that the Gospels as he have it today, are not eyewitness accounts of Jesus sayings and doings, but rather second-hand accounts derived from people who knew him. The earliest of the four gospels, that of Mark was written shortly before 70 AC while Matthew’s was compiled by a tax collector who did not travel around with Jesus. Luke’s followed somewhat later, drawing extensively from Mark and Matthew and finally came John’s Gospel drawn from an altogether different source and written around 100 AC.
The oldest surviving manuscripts of the New Testament such as the Codex Vaticanus from which all the present translations originate date after the Council of Nicaea in 325 AC and it is very possible that they were subject to interpolation. Many other accounts of the life time of Jesus seem to have been suppressed or destroyed by the Pauline Church which upheld Trinitarianism following the Council of Nicaea.
One such condemned work was the Gospel of Barnabas, which is the only surviving gospel written by a true disciple of Jesus, that is one who spent much of his time in the actual company of Jesus during the short three years of his mission. Originally known as Joseph it is he whom Peter in the Acts of the Apostles names as one of the men that accompanied them the whole time Jesus lived among them (Acts 1:21-23). In fact Mark, the earliest of the gospel writers, could well have derived his knowledge of Jesus, his sayings and doings, from Barnabas as he was the son of Barnabas sister. In fact, the Gospel of Barnabas seems to have been accepted as a canonical gospel in the churches of Alexandria until 325 AC after which it fell into disfavour with the Council of Nicaea.
Even after the Nicaean Council, it seems to have somehow survived, since the Gelasian Decree of 496 included what it calls the Evangelium Barnabe in its list of the ten forbidden gospels. Fortunately, at least one copy of the gospel survived and found its way to the Hofbibliothek in Vienna before being translated into English by Lonsdale and Laura Ragg in 1907. It is from this source that we can glean some of Jesus teachings, which the other gospels are silent on. In it we do not find a single instance of Jesus ever addressing God as ‘Father’ or calling himself His ‘Son’.
Greek culture, with its polytheistic associations, had a profound influence on the development of early Christianity, especially when the Bible came to be translated to that language from its original Aramaic. In fact, when Rome replaced Jerusalem as the centre of Christianity under Constantine, Jesus teachings were given a Greek garb.
The pace for all this was set by one man, Paul of Tarsus who had been earlier known as Saul. Paul, who had been enlisted by a disciple of Jesus named Barnabas to take Christianity to the heathen, felt the need for Christianity to concede to Pagan ways if it was to make any headway. How much Pagan ways had taken hold of the Greek-speaking populace to whom they preached could be seen in an incident related in the Acts of the Apostles. At Lystra they healed a cripple and it was rumoured that “the gods are come down to us in human form”. They even called Barnabas Zeus and Paul Hermes, and brought oxen for sacrifice, which when Barnabas and Paul heard of, they rent their clothes and rushed out into the crowd crying out: “Men, why do ye these things? We are of the same nature as you, human beings, and proclaim to you good news that you should turn from these idols to the Living God who made heaven and earth and the sea and all that is in them” (Acts 14:11-15).
And so it happened that Paul felt tempted to compromise the monotheism taught by Jesus while Barnabas resisted the temptation. Needless to say, in such an environment, it was Paul who prevailed. Remember the Greeks then were given to the worship of a multitude of gods, a pantheon headed by Zeus and his family who not only mixed freely with humans on earth, but even mated with them. What’s more, they were part of the Roman Empire at the time and Greek deities were readily identified with the Roman gods. This development only consolidated the pagan view of a multiplicity of deities as against a Single All-Powerful Being. Paul therefore gave in to the ways of the Pagans.
But not Barnabas. He was not at all willing to concede Jesus’ teachings in the manner Paul was thinking of. But Paul had an advantage over Barnabas. Being a Roman citizen, he probably spoke both Greek and Roman. Barnabas on the other hand was unable to preach in either Greek or Roman and was assisted by his Greek-speaking nephew Mark.
However Paul wished to be left to his own devices. To rid himself of Mark’s presence as well as Barnabas’ restraining hand, he refused to travel with Mark (Acts 15:37-38), knowing fully well that his uncle would then refuse to travel with him and prefer instead to travel with Mark as his interpreter. The ruse worked. Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus. Interestingly Barnabas who occupies the most important place after the disappearance of Jesus if we are to believe Luke, disappears from the pages of history no sooner he and Paul part company. No doubt the work of Trinitarian theologians who expunged him from history so that the only references we have to him are some allusions to him in the Acts of the Apostles and a little known gospel known as the Gospel of Barnabas.
Paul was now free to do as he pleased and formulated a new doctrine from which he sought to divorce the teachings of Jesus from the monotheism preached by the Hebrew Prophets of old. He famously proclaimed: “Know ye not, brethren, how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth, but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then, if while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress, but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law, so that she is no adultress, though she be married to another man. Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ, that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God” (Romans 7:14).
Paul reasoned that the law that had bound Jesus and his early followers were no longer necessary. With one sweep he proceeded to teach a new Christianity far removed from the teachings of Jesus, though he pretended that Christ desired it such as when he said: “For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1). To Paul slavery meant the Mosaic code and Christ meant liberation from the law, despite the fact that Jesus always lived by the Law. Paul very well knew that what he was doing was dishonest, but justified it on the grounds that the means justified the end such as when he said: “But if the Truth of God’s abounds through my falsehood, why am I still condemned as a sinner?” (Romans 3:7). What Paul did not realize is that a lie could never uphold the truth, but he had already made up his mind.
He therefore introduced the idea of Jesus as the Son of God in a literal rather than in the figurative sense some of his earlier followers would have done, like when he announced: “When God, who from my mother’s womb, had set me apart and called me through His Grace, was pleased to reveal his son to me, so that I might proclaim him to the gentiles, I did not immediately consult flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me” (Galatians 1:15). In doing so, however, Paul also resorted to Old Testament usages relating to men of God to assign to Jesus the Sonship of God, like: “You are my son; this day I have begotten you” and “I will be a father to him, and he shall be a son to me” (Hebrews 1:5). Such blasphemous statements of the Jews are not uncommon in the Bible, as in the Psalm of Ethan the Ezrahite where we read of God saying of David: “He shall cry to me: ‘You are my Father, my God, the Rock that brings me victory’. I myself make him firstborn, Most High over the Kings of the Earth” (Psalm 89:27-28). Here David is supposed to address God as Father while God declares He will make him his Firstborn. The usage is also reflected in Hebrew Talmudic literature where God is said to address Hanina Ben Dosa as His Son: “The whole universe is sustained on account of My Son Hanina” (Talmud. B’Tan).
The idea went well with the surrounding Greek culture, for had not the Greek god Zeus fathered offspring through human women like Apollo by Latona and of Minos by Europa. So Paul found no difficulty pushing it down their throats that Jesus was the Son of God in Heaven through a human woman named Mary.
Another factor that would have contributed to the idea of the divinity of Christ, though in an indirect way, was the Jewish conception of God as a wrathful and vengeful tribal deity out to punish men for the slightest transgression. This was of course the result of the Jewish penchant for antagonizing their God over the ages, which is why we often find the God of the Old Testament as a very harsh and vindictive deity, so different in character from the All Merciful Oft Forgiving God of Islam. It is thus possible that some early Christians came to look upon Jesus as some sort of intercessor, standing between an incensed deity and a guilty humanity, both of which have their origins in the Jewish scripture. This was because when the Christian gentiles adopted the faith of Jesus they also inherited the Old Testament as part of the Bible, a scripture that was not only meant solely for the Jews, but also reflected God’s Wrath towards them, which they had brought upon themselves with their transgressions through the ages.
By declaring that Christ was the Son of God, Paul elevated Jesus from the status of an ordinary human to something approaching divinity. Like when he pronounced: “He is the Image of the Visible God, the firstborn of all creation. For in him were created all things in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things were created through him and for him” (Colossians 1:15-16) or when he declared: “In him dwells the whole fullness of the deity bodily, and you share in this fullness in him, who is the head of every principality and power” (Colossians 2:9-10).
Although Paul did not expressly preach the divinity of Jesus, he paved the way for it, and soon the doors, or rather flood-gates, were opened for more pagan ideas to permeate the Christian mind. Later Christians would hold that God became a corporal being through his son Jesus Christ born in the form of a human being in a humble manger to atone for men’s sins.
In the Gospel of John compiled long after Jesus departed from this world, around 90-100 AC a most unusual prorogue was inserted proclaiming Jesus as the preexistent and incarnate word of God who revealed the Father. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. And the Word became flesh, and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the father’s only son, full of grace and truth”. This passage which commences the Gospel of John seems to be a convoluted version of a belief the early Christians held that Jesus came to be as a result of the Word of God, “Be” and it was, held also by Muslims.
But John gave it a further twist with his metaphysical sophistry, implying that since the Word was with God, He was in the beginning with God before he became flesh, thus arguing that God and Jesus were co-eval or existing at the same time. It is also in John’s Gospel that we come across passages like “The Father and I are One” (10:30) and “The Father is in me and I am in the Father” (10:38) and “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (14:6). Imagine Jesus with all his humility saying such a thing? Could such a holy, humble saintly figure like Jesus have said such a thing that comes between us and God, to spoil that beautiful relationship we enjoy with Him ?
What’s more, Jesus is said to tell Nicodemus the Pharisee “No one has gone to heaven except the one who has come down from heaven, the Son of Man, and just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave His only Son, so that everybody who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life” (John 3:13-17). Here again, it’s hard to imagine that Jesus who always stressed so much on humility as seen in the other gospels should have spoken in such a vein. Jesus always prayed to God with as much humility and resignation as the most dependent being in the universe could possibly do. Remember how he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane saying to God: “Not my will, but yours be done”, how he knelt in prayer at the spot and fell prostrate in prayer (Luke 22:41-42, Matthew 26:39).
There is only a single verse of the Bible the Pauline and other established churches cite to support the idea of the Trinity. And that too is found in John’s first epistle (5.7) “For there are three that bear record in heaven – the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, and these three are One”. Strangely this particular verse does not appear in the earliest Greek copies of the Gospel, nor in the oldest Latin or Syriac translations. Rather, the spurious verse seems to appear for the first time in the Third edition of Erasmus’ New Testament. So there can be no doubt that it was a later interpolation, more so since it contradicts other verses of the scripture. In this very same John’s Gospel and nowhere else, we find John the Baptist saying upon seeing Jesus: “I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God”. This statement of the Baptist found in Greek manuscripts like the Bodmer Papyri and Vatican Codex is not found in any of the other gospels, while in an alternate version of this passage John has: “God’s chosen one’ instead of ‘Son of God’.
Such passages calling Jesus the Only Son of God and implying the existence of a Trinity in One Godhead are not found in the other gospels, showing that John’s Gospel, though likely based on some genuine original source, was subjected to interpolation by a man given to Pagan ways which is also borne out by its questionable prorogue which the other gospels do not have. When you read the first three gospels, that of Mark, Matthew and Luke, you will find they are very much similar which is why they are known as the synoptic bibles. John’s on the other hand, differs considerably and was from very early days disputed as a reliable account of Jesus’ teachings and whether it should be included in the scriptures at all. This John was not John the Baptist who was Jesus’ cousin, nor John the disciple, but another man.
As a result of Paul’s teachings and John’s interpolations, it did not take long for the Pagan idea of tri-theism (three gods) found from Greece to India to seep into Christianity and soon the idea of “God the Father” and “God the Son” was born, to which was later added “The Holy Spirit”, perhaps a Paganised version of the Archangel Gabriel who had in the first place announced the holy conception to Mary. But how we may ask can the Holy Spirit be God when in the Bible, he is clearly distinguished from God, for we are told that it was God who sent the Holy Spirit to the Israelites, so he cannot be God.
We are also told that the Holy Spirit speaks not for himself, which again shows he cannot be God. The duty of the Holy Spirit was to carry the message from God to Jesus. Thus he must have been an angel who came in the Name of God, no doubt the archangel Gabriel, the angel of revelation who brought glad tidings of the conception of Jesus to Mary. This is confirmed by the Qur’an where we read: “To Jesus, the son of Mary, We gave clear Signs, and strengthened him with the Holy Spirit” (The Heifer:253). The word used here for Holy Spirit is Roohil Qudus which we understand to mean the angel Gabriel.
So to conform to the pervasive pagan idea of a trinity of gods, the Holy Spirit was incorporated and so the third person of the Trinity was born. It now constituted of three persons – The Father who was God Proper, the Son who was a human and the Holy Spirit who was an angel, all morphed into a single Godhead. And as if that were not enough, to cap it all, the mother of Jesus, Mary, was placed in a most unique position as “The Mother of God”.
It was not long before the idea of the Trinity, still nebulous and having no definite form, was surreptitiously introduced into other Christian scripture, but that too only in the Gospel of Matthew and in a very vague way. Only in it and in no other gospel synoptic gospel, either in Mark or Luke, do we find an indication of the three separate beings that would later be constituted into the Trinity. In it we read that after Jesus had been resurrected, he appeared to his disciples in a mountain in Galilee and said: “All power on heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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” (Matthew 28:16-19). On the face of it, these are very unlikely the words of Jesus who was known for his humility. Words like “All power on heaven and on earth has been given to me” are so unlike him. At any rate, even here, there is nothing to show that all the three mentioned beings, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, were to be considered three divine beings united in something called the Trinity.
However such innovations did not go unchecked. The true Christians who held on to God’s Unity opposed the heresy tooth and nail. They were known as the Unitarians, that is those who held on to the Unity or Oneness of God. They also held that Jesus was no more than a man and that God had him begotten by the Holy Spirit, conceived by the operation of the Holy Ghost in the chaste womb of the virgin Mary. You can see how close their views were to that of us Muslims.
The best known of them was Arius who lived three hundred years before the days of the Prophet. In fact so closely associated was Arius with Unitarianism that Christian Unitarianism eventually came to be called Arianism. The man was a Libyan and disciple of the Martyr Lucian of Antioch whom the Pauline Church cruelly put to death in 312 AC. He was a humble soul with an emaciated body and downcast look so different from the haughty leaders of the Pauline Church who led a life of ease at the expense of gullible folk. He nevertheless had a winsome manner and was held in such high esteem that even wealthy women had the greatest respect for him despite his haggard appearance. Indeed he had a following of no less than seven hundred good Christian ladies of Alexandria where he taught. He had a sweet and sure tongue, and though usually silent, would when occasion demanded, burst into fiery language to safeguard the Oneness of God.
Arius refuted Trinitarianism wherever he could by appealing to reason. He argued that if Jesus were indeed the Son of God, then it follows that the Father must have existed before the Son. Therefore there must have been a time when the Son did not exist. The Son was therefore a creature composed of an essence which had not always existed. And since God is in essence Eternal, Jesus could not be of the same essence as God. Thus there was a time Jesus did not exist whereas God did even then. Since Jesus was created by God, he was a creation of God and not one who shared in His Divinity. Why, because One has to be either divine or human, creator or created. Both simply cannot mingle in one. To do so, defies simple logic. Arius argued against the Sonship of Christ, saying that if the act of generation were attributed to God, it would destroy His Singularity, His Oneness. Besides, He is far above corporeality and Passion which are attributes of man, and not of God.
However even so great a teacher like Arius could not stem the Pagan tide that was flooding Christianity. The idea of Trinity that had taken shape over the years was given official sanction with the Council of Nicaea convened in 325 AC. The Council which was convened by Roman Emperor Constantine went further than espousing the idea of Trinity. It also incorporated other Pagan beliefs. Since the worship of the Roman Sun-god was widespread throughout the empire and as the emperor was deemed the manifestation of the sun god on earth, they resolved:
Firstly, that the Roman Sun-Day dedicated to the Sun-God be adopted as the Christian Sabbath in lieu of Saturday, and so you have Sunday as the Christian holy day
Secondly, that the traditional birthday of the Sun god, the twenty fifth of December be celebrated as the birthday of Jesus despite it being known that Jesus was not born that day, and so you have Christmas being celebrated that day
Thirdly, that the Sign of the Sun-god, the Cross of Light, be the emblem of Christianity, and so you have the cross as the symbol of Christendom despite the cross of the crucifixion being an instrument of torture
And so it was that the Nicene Creed came to be established. It is this creed that every mainstream church professes to this day. The Unitarian doctrine was declared anathema and driven underground. The true church of Christ soon found itself branded as heretics and persecuted. Why, simply because they refused to believe that Jesus was God or the Son of God. The Nicene creed, faulty as it was, soon paved the way for other hair-splitting dogmas centering around the divinity of Christ. While the Arians altogether rejected the divinity of Christ, the Monophysites believed that he had only one nature, a divine one, while the Catholics believed he had two, a combined divine and human nature. The Church of Rome rejected the Monophysite doctrine that prevailed in the provinces of the Byzantine empire on the grounds that it stressed the divine in Christ at the expense of the human and just as the Council of Nicaea condemned Arianism in 325 AC, the Council of Chalcedon condemned Monophytism as heresy in 451 AC.
The Roman Church backed by the Roman Empire became conceited and arrogant and unleashed a bloodbath against not only the Unitarians, but also against the Monophysites. Needless to say, the notion of the divinity of Christ proved to be the bane of Christendom for ages. The persecution lasted centuries costing over a million Christian lives. As Emperor Julian noted of these persecutions: “No wild beasts are so hostile to man as Christian sects in general are to one another”.
The Unitarians however would not give in. These humble folk far removed from the arrogance and pomposity of the established Roman Church lived simple lives in Antioch and elsewhere. One of their number, George of Cappadocia was known for his strong Unitarian views and even had no qualms beating Trinitarian women with the prickly branches of palm trees till they abjured their creed. Lynched by a mob, he eventually became the famous St.George of England. These early Unitarians quite rightly regarded the Catholic Church as evil priests working with the kings of the world, who relying on royal favours, had renounced Christ. They and their followers who came after them would not give up on their mission despite the odds against them and continued to preach the true Gospel, conveying their message far and wide to reach the German tribes of Western Europe in the 5th century and even Romanian royalty in the 16th century.
It is interesting, however, that the very emperor who should have convened the Nicaean Council that condemned Unitarianism, Constantine, should have himself died a Unitarian, as a believer in the Unity of God. That was due to the influence of his God-fearing sister Constantina. The emperor made his peace with Arius who had so fearlessly preached the Oneness of God and appointed him Bishop of Constantinople. The good bishop did not live long as he died shortly after from poisoning in 336 AC. The odious deed was thought to be the work of his foe Athanasius who had been accused of tyranny at the Council of Tyre a year earlier and soundly condemned by the bishops who gathered shortly afterwards in Jerusalem. The pagan emperor was so moved by the death of Arius that he became a Christian of the Arian Creed before dying a year later in 337 AC.
Fortunately, Unitarianism did not die with Constantine. It was even accepted by his successor Constantius and before long the Council of Antioch accepted Unitarianism as the basis of Christianity in 341 AC, five years after Arius’ death. Arianism soon won out and was accepted by nearly all of Christendom. So much so that Saint Jerome could write “the whole world groaned and marveled to find itself Arian”.
But as often happens Satan finds ways to ensure his religion prevails. The ways of the world are conducive to his schemes. The Nicaean Council which had been convened by Constantine in the first place still exerted a profound influence on the Roman clergy and it was not long before Trinitarianism crept back into the church. It was then left to the Germans to uphold Unitarianism, like the Gothic Arian King Odoacer who took Rome in 476. Unfortunately he was set upon by Catholic mobs and driven to Ravenna where he was barbarously done to death by Theodoric who in spite of the support of the Catholics chose to remain an Arian, as did his Ostrogothic heirs. Indeed it was only with the defeat of these German Arians in the Vandalic Wars of 533-534 by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian that Unitarianism suffered a blow, both in Europe and North Africa where it had thrived.
Although the Unitarians were outnumbered and persecuted by the church, they did not fear to express their views. The Unitarian Michael Servetus who lived in the 16th century wrote a book called De Trinitatis Erroribus ‘The Errors of Trinity’ in which he railed against the complexities of this mad notion: “We have become Atheists, men without any God. For as soon as we try to think about God, we are turned aside to three phantoms, so that no kind of unity remains in our conception. What else is being without God but being unable to think about God, when there is always present to our understanding a haunting kind of confusion of three beings, by which we are forever deluded into supposing that we are thinking about God”.
His writings however earned him the ire of the establishment and he was condemned to burn at the stake. The charge against him was that he had called the Trinity a diabolical monster with three heads when he wrote: , “Instead of the one God, you have a three-headed Cerberus”. He had also dared call Christ a Prophet as the scriptures termed him. For setting himself against The Divine Majesty and the Holy Trinity and trying to infect the world with your stinking heretical poison, the poor fellow was condemned to be burned at the stake. He was bound to the stake with a wreath of leaves strewn with sulphur placed on his head. Bundles of wood were then piled around his legs before being lit. The poor man writhed in the fiery torment for a painfully long time before breathing his last.
If you think it were only men of the pen who were treated as such, you’re sadly mistaken. Even already folk were brutally done to death for speaking out against the Trinity. Take the Flemish Surgeon George Van Parris who was burned to death in London by fellow Protestants in 1551 and Patrick Pakingham an English Fellmonger burned to death at Uxbridge in 1555, not to mention Edward Wightman, an English cleric burned at the stake at Lichfeld in 1612 by personal order of King James I.
Their only crime – affirming that God was One and not three. Such views were of course anathema to the established Church which arrogated to itself and to it alone the Knowledge of God. How the Catholic priesthood wanted to keep the Bible to themselves, without even allowing ordinary people to comprehend it can be gathered from the treatment they meted out to people who wanted toread the Bible in their vernacular rather than in Latin. Take the case of Catholic England, where in 1506 a young man was burned to death in Norwich for simply possessing the Lord’s prayer in English while in 1519, a woman and six men in Coventry were burned to death for teaching their children English versions of the Lord’ s Prayer and the Ten Commandments. These are the cases on record on how many more perished at the stake due to such repression can only be imagined.
And if you think, it was only the Catholic Church that engaged in such wickedness, you’re again mistaken. The Protestant churches were no less repressive. The Church of England for instance played a big role in passing a law in 1648 decreeing that anyone who denied the Trinity, or the Divinity of Jesus or the Holy Spirit would suffer death. Even before this, in 1611, two men, Legatt and Wightman, were barbarously burnt alive for denying the Trinity. These are but a few examples of the brutal manner in which the established church repressed true Christians. I hope now you know how Trinitarianism triumphed. It simply prevailed by brute force.
But as Joseph Priestly, the 18th century English discoverer of Oxygen and himself a Unitarian wisely observed: “Absurdity supported by power will never be able to stand its ground against the efforts of reason”. Priestley himself had to face the wrath of the mob when his home in Birmingham that included his science laboratory and the Unitarian church where he preached was burned down, compelling him to settle in Pennsylvania where he went on to establish the first Unitarian church in Philadelphia.
In an environment where Unitarians were allowed a free hand, they prevailed due to the simplicity of their dogma. Take for example the case of Francis David who also lived in the 16th century. A native of Transylvania in what is now Romania, he was able to convince people of the futility of Trinitarianism, so much so that not just his native town of Kolozsvar, but much of the country became believers in the One True God. In fact by 1571, there were almost 500 Unitarian congregations in Transylvania. But as usually happens when the church takes charge, Trinitarianism prevailed once again and poor Francis was imprisoned. When he died, they found a little poem scrawled in his cell. It read: “One God not Three have I worshipped. Lightening, nor cross, nor sword of the pope, nor Death’s Visible face. No power whatever can stay the progress of truth”.
However thanks to the subsequent Turkish rule in Transylvania sometime lter, Unitarianism thrived and gained in importance with the religious tolerance of the past few centuries. To this day the Unitarian movement survives in this part of Eastern Europe like an island unbreached by the tide of the Pauline Sea all round them. They will certainly be happy to learn that we Muslims share their views and agree with them wholeheartedly.
There is good reason to believe that most Unitarians, especially in North Africa where they were very strong, accepted Islam when it came to them, as it was nothing but an extension and indeed affirmation of the creed they were following. Likewise the crusades directed by the Roman Catholic Church against Muslims may be regarded as an extension of the massacres the church perpetrated against the Arians of old. Did you know that the Secret Society of Vinecenza which existed in Venice in the 16th century were labeled “followers of the Arabian Prophet”. In a sense the story of Unitarianism is the story of Islam, the story of an unflinching belief in the One True God who created all.