Why I believe in the Trinity
by Jeff Kvistad
I believe the doctrine of the Trinity is the best understanding of the nature of God
and of Christ in the light of the whole counsel of Scripture. This doctrine did not
originate with the Athanasian or the Nicene Creed, but rather those creeds resulted
from the best understanding of the Scriptural evidence during the first three
centuries of the Church.
Definition of Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit – one God. There are 3 persons
each with his own identity and role, but they are One God – one in substance,
essence – worthy of equal worship. Each person is equal in status, power, and
eternality (uncreatedness). Each is a distinct personality, but they relate to and are
intertwined with each other in one divine nature. Like the teaching commonly
attributed to St. Patrick – a clover has 3 leaves, but it is one clover. Likewise, a
rope may have three cords, but it is one rope.
My understanding of Jehovah’s Witness ("JW") teaching: Jesus is not the Great
God, or YHWH of the OT Scriptures, but rather His son - a lesser, created divine
being. As such, he has divine attributes, but he is not equal to the Father in status,
power, or worship. I have also heard that JWs somehow ultimately link Jesus with
the Archangel Michael, but I am not sure how this works. Although I am not familiar
with JW teaching on the Holy Spirit, my guess would be that you would understand
the HS to not be a separate personality, but rather the "spirit" or will or power of
[Incidentally, I have read portions of the JW version of the Bible, the New World
Translation ("NWT"), but I do not have it in front of me as I write this. I do have
the Greek New Testament which I learned to read in seminary.]
I believe that Scripture shows that Jesus Christ is equal to God the Father in the
essence of Godhood – that he is the eternal (uncreated) God – Jehovah - and that
he is worthy of the same honor and worship as the Father. The idea of the Trinity
also means, however, that Jesus is a separate person who loves, serves, and
‘stands at the right hand of’ his God and Father. For this paper, I will focus only on
Jesus; there are Scriptures on the Holy Spirit, but I will not be referring to these.
I will do this first by setting the stage with a preliminary review of (a) the Hebrew
word YHWH, (b) the Septuagint, and (c) the definite articles in Greek. Second, I will
look at how the New Testament authors used OT Scriptures of YHWH and applied
them to Jesus. Thirdly, I will open the whole Scripture and cite what are to me the
most powerful texts in support of the Trinity. Then I will consider Scriptures which
raise questions about Jesus’ equality with the Father, and finally, I will make some
SETTING THE STAGE
The meaning of YHWH
The Tetragammaton, or the most holy name of God, is a form of the verb ‘to be’
so that God’s name is literally, "I AM." This was the name he told Moses at the
burning bush, "I AM who I AM" and "Tell them I AM has sent you." It is truly the
only accurate name of God since in all the universe He is the only self-existent One,
the One who has been and forever will be through all eternity. So holy was this
name that the Jews feared to say it directly and to ‘cover’ its glory used the vowel
points for the Hebrew word "adonai" which has resulted in the pronunciation
‘Jehovah,’ rather than YahWey, which would usually be required by the four Hebrew
Crucial to our discussion is the Septuagint. This is the Greek translation of the
Hebrew Scriptures which was made over a century before Christ (my recollection is
165 B.C.) by, according to tradition, 70 Jewish scholars (hence the name,
Septuagint). This translation is crucial to our discussion because these are the
Scriptures used by the New Testament ("NT") authors when they quoted the Old
Testament ("OT"). These are the Scriptures that Paul quotes in his letters. The
vocabulary of this Scripture was the vocabulary used by the first century
Greek-speaking Jews and Gentiles who became believers in Christ.
When the Septuagint scholars translated the Hebrew YHWH into Greek, the word
they chose was Kyrios, or Lord. (It was this precedent, by the way, which English
translators, including the King James translators, used when they translated YHWH
into Lord – but in order to distinguish it, capitalized it LORD.)
THE DEFINITE ARTICLES IN GREEK
Greek has two definite articles: o and to. One is just as "strong" as the other. The
first one, o (pronounced, haw), is used in the subjective part of the sentence (that
part of the sentence which identifies the actor). The second, to (pronounced taw),
and its declensions tov, tou, and tw are used in the predicate (that part of the
sentence that is ‘acted upon;’ in English it typically comes after the verb). The
declensions indicate different cases: tov (pronounced tahn) is the direct object, tw
(pronounced toe) is the indirect object, and tou (pronounced too) is the genitive
case. (In English we would use it as the possessive.) This is more than we need to
know for this paper, but I thought you might be wondering why there are three
versions of to.
New Testament used OT Scriptures of YHWH and applied them to Jesus.
Romans 10:13: "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."
Comment: In this familiar verse from Romans 10, the Apostle Paul is actually
quoting the OT Prophet Joel (verse 2:32). In Hebrew, this text in Joel is "Everyone
who calls on the name of YHWH will be saved." But since Paul was using the Greek
translation of the Scriptures, he writes, "the name of the Lord (kyrios).." For Paul,
then, the Greek word kyrios was synonymous with YHWH. Now I suppose you
could say that Paul is saying, "Everyone who calls on the name of YHWH will be
saved," but given how often Jesus is referred to as Lord both in this chapter in
Romans and throughout the NT, it is very likely that Paul actually had in mind Jesus
when he quoted this verse from Joel.
Now move to this verse:
Romans 10:9: "That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in
your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved."
Comment: The earliest statement of belief, or creed, of the first century Christians
was "Jesus is Lord." When the Greek-speaking Jews said this, they were using the
same vocabulary as the Greek Scriptures, and by doing so, they were making the
radical claim, "Jesus is Jehovah." This is why they were kicked out of the
synagogues, why they were so hated and persecuted. It seemed to be the
ultimate blasphemy, claiming that a man, Jesus, was the Eternal One.
This reading of "Jesus is Lord" may come as quite a surprise to you. Certainly the
word ‘Lord’ is often used in connection with Jesus throughout the New Testament,
too many times for me to list. No doubt, Jehovah’s Witnesses have treated this
title as a term of rank or respect, much like, I imagine, the title "Lord" is used in
Britain. I could imagine a JW teacher saying that while there are many "Lords" in
England, there is only one King (or Queen, presently). And certainly the Greek word
kyrios is also used in the New Testament as a term for master. The owners of the
demon-possessed slavegirl in Acts are called kyrioi. But the exclamation, "____ is
Lord" was in a different category in the first century Greek-speaking world.
Whatever was named as Lord was an object of worship, not just respect. It was
this phrase that got Jewish Christians thrown out of synagogues and Jewish and
Gentile Christians killed for refusing to say, "Caesar is Lord." ("O Kaisaros O
Another application of YHWH to Jesus is found in:
Philippians 2:10-11: "that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven
and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is
Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
Comment: Here once again Paul has the words of OT Scripture in mind, specifically,
when YHWH speaks through the Prophet Isaiah (45:23), "Before Me every knee
will bow; by Me every tongue will swear (or confess)." While I suppose you might
say that the Philippians verse is not clear to whom every knee should bow – to
Jesus or to the Father – it is clear what the confession of the tongue will be, "Jesus
is Lord," a confession that YHWH says to Isaiah is "by Me" or "of Me."
Hebrews 1:10: "He also says, ‘In the beginning, O Lord, you laid the foundations of
the earth and the heavens are the work of your hands.’"
Comment: In the first chapter of Hebrews, the author is attempting to prove the
superiority of Jesus by citing OT scriptures and applying them to Jesus. The author
shows that Jesus: is called God’s Son (by citing Ps. 2:7 and II Sam. 7:14); is
worshipped by angels (Deuteronomy 32:43); is forever (Ps. 45:6-7); and is the
creator of the heavens and the earth (Ps. 102:25-27).
This is all fine (Witnesses may