In the Bible there is no passage of Scripture that demonstrates and explains the full doctrine of the Trinity and thus it has been the intention of theologians and the early church doctrines to try to render an understanding to the enigma of ‘One God’ (Fortman, 1972).The slow evolution of the doctrine of the Trinity from its beginning is a result of the constraints of linguistic and theoretical theology (Hunt, 2004).
The purpose of this report is to outline the historical evolution of understandings of the Trinity from the New Testament to the present day.
The Apostolic Fathers indicated clearly and presented evidence of their belief in the ‘three pre-existent beings’. Most of them were ...view middle of the document...
A central character in the Trinitarian dogma development was Arius who challenged the Platonic hierarchical framework and found the idea of an inferior god as unacceptable. Arius and his supporters claimed that Jesus could not be divine in the same manner that God was since He was the creator (Giles, 2012; Fortman, 1972). The added complication of translating Greek to Latin, as with any linguistic traditions, can alter the meaning of words. The term given to the Three was hypostases, in Greek this means person and in Latin persona hence creating further questions (Hunt, 2004).
Arius was heavily dependent on biblical argumentation to emphasis three distinct hypostases. Using evidence from the Scriptures particularly Proverbs 8:22 “the Lord created me at the beginning of his work” he reasoned that as Jesus was the Son of the creator this lowered his status in divinity than God. Similarly, the Holy Spirit was also a created being and therefore not fully divine in the manner of the Father and deserving of a lesser status (Hunt, 2004). In this theory the Father and the Son are differentiated, there are two gods, one true God and his subordinate. The principal Christian cities of Alexander and Constantinople were strongly guided by the Arian view for a short time (Giles, 2012).
The Church decided that it had to make a well-defined position on its faith and it used the Council of Nicaea, the first ecumenical council, in 325 as its platform (Fortman, 1972). At this council the church denied the Arian doctrine and gave a definitive answer to the fundamental substance for the Christian faith of the Church. They declared, “We believe in one God………….” The Nicene Creed defined the Son is in Himself and in His relation to the one God, “ begotten of the Father” thus defining Him a category of substance and being. The creed simply stated “And we believe in the Holy Spirit” (Catholic Church, 1994) thus implying the divinity of the Holy Spirit. In constructing the creed the Council formalised the basis of the development of the doctrine and a progression of understanding of the affirmations held in the New Testament (Fortman. 1972).
Fortman (1972) reported the development of an Anti-Nicene group that rejected the answers provided by the Council of Nicaea in the Creed. Athanasius headed one of these groups and produced a Trinitarian doctrine however, this left many unexplained questions about the divinity of the trinity and the distinction of the persons to one another and God.
The Cappadocians utilized the data contained in the New Testament, as Athanasius had done, but the Cappadocians applied a philosophical approach to disprove the Arian ideals. ‘Hypostases’ was selected as the best word to describe their principle of Gods Trinity “one ousa in three hypostases” (Fortman, 1972 p. xviii). The methodical beginning position for their trinity of hypostases to clearly identify the substance for the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit was to try to...