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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Trinity (2)

TRINITY.—Our subject is the doctrine of the Holy Trinity in relation to Christ and the Gospels. We have to consider how far that great conception of God’s being and nature is revealed or implied in the fact of Christ as presented in the Gospels and in the teaching of our Lord Himself.

I. The witness of our Lord’s consciousness as revealed in the Gospels

(i.) As regards Himself.—It was not our Lord’s custom to take to Himself the names and titles to which He knew He had a right. The passage which exhibits this fact most clearly is that in which we find Him questioning His disciples, first as to the popular opinion, and then as to their own belief (Matthew 16:13 ff., Mark 8:27 ff., Luke 9:18 ff.). After St. Peter had made his great confession, our Lord charged the disciples to keep the truth which had just emerged, to themselves. No doubt He desired to avoid the mistakes arising from the popular conceptions of the Messiah. He wished also to train the minds of the disciples, to lead them gently from truth to truth, so that spiritual experience might keep pace with knowledge. And yet our Lord’s thoughts about Himself were loftier far than could be imagined from the mere names and titles which He acknowledged. When the passages which contain His statements about His own relation to God and man are collected and viewed as a whole, they are found to imply claims which are far in advance of the first and more obvious meanings of the titles.

It is being more and more fully recognized by critical students of the life of Jesus that He certainly regarded Himself as the Messiah, and that the names and titles by which He described Himself and permitted others to describe Him are Messianic in their significance. But when this has been granted to the full, there remains a very large proportion of His self-revelation unaccounted for. Bousset considers that the reserve of our Lord on the subject of His Messiahship was due to His deep sense of the inadequacy of the Messianic title for that which He felt Himself to be (Jesus, p. 175 ff., English translation ). And certain it is that, among all the conceptions which clustered round the Jewish anticipation of the Messiah, none is great enough, none deep enough, to correspond with the revelation of Himself which our Lord makes in the Gospels. (See art. ‘Development of Doctrine’ in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible , Ext. Vol.; Charles, ‘Enoch’ and ‘Eschatology’ in vol. i.; also Briggs, The Messiah of the Gospels). True, we have the great OT conceptions of the later Isaiah and of the Book of Daniel, and we have the latter repeated, and in some respects enlarged, in the Similitudes of Enoch. In this probably pre-Christian work there is a wonderful picture of the Son of Man, which corresponds remarkably with certain passages in the Gospels. He is, as it seems, regarded as pre-existent, was named in the presence of God before creation, and takes part in judgment. But there is no anticipation of that extraordinary union of earthly humiliation with transcendent relationship to God the Father which is the principal deliverance of our Lord’s consciousness concerning Himself. The truth is that the difficulty of representing that consciousness by means of the understood and recognized terms of the religion and theology of the day was almost inconceivably great.

It was this very inadequacy of all existing conceptions to convey the truth of our Lord’s Person in His relation to God and man which rendered necessary that careful and patient handling of the faith of the disciples which we find everywhere in His dealing with them. A spiritual experience of a new kind had to be created before the new language could be learned. The new wine needed new bottles. The first danger to be guarded against was a premature precision, a hasty definition. The one title which our Lord constantly used of Himself, ‘the Son of Man,’ most skilfully avoided anything of the nature of definition. Messianic in its associations, it was yet not so distinctively Messianic as to constitute a claim, and it was capable of infinite suggestion, according to its application and context. It was a continual challenge to reflexion. See art. Son of Man above and in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible .

These reflexions will help us to discern the true nature of the problem which is presented by our Lord’s revelation of Himself. The facts of that problem may be summarized as follows, the Synoptic evidence and that of the Fourth Gospel being exhibited separately.

(1) Direct statements or claims to a position or authority more than human.—The strongest passage in the Synoptics is the solemn declaration recorded by Mt. (Matthew 11:27) and Lk. (Luke 10:22), ‘All things have been delivered unto me of my Father: and no one knoweth who the Son is, save the Father; and who the Father is, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son willeth to reveal him.’

These words form the most striking connecting link between the Christology of the Synoptics and that of the Fourth Gospel. But they do not, as some critics would have us believe, stand alone. On the contrary, they but sum up teaching which may be found everywhere, expressed or implied. In many places our Lord speaks of His mission from God in a manner which sets Him above and apart from men (Matthew 20:28, Mark 9:37; Mark 10:45, Luke 9:48, Matthew 28:18 etc.). He is King in a superhuman sense of the term (Matthew 24:30 ff; Matthew 25:34; Matthew 25:40, Mark 15:2, Luke 19:38-40; Luke 22:29; Luke 23:2-3). He is Judge of all and Lord of the future (Matthew 25:31 ff; Matthew 16:27; Matthew 19:28; Matthew 26:64, Mark 8:38; Mark 13:26-27; Mark 14:62, Luke 9:26; Luke 12:8-9; Luke 12:40 ff., Luke 13:25 ff., Luke 17:30; Luke 21:36; Luke 22:69 etc.). He is David’s Lord (Matthew 22:43-45, Mark 12:35 ff., Luke 20:44). He is higher than the angels (Mark 13:32). He demands the most complete devotion as His right, and the most extreme self-sacrifice (Matthew 8:22; Matthew 10:32-33; Matthew 10:37; Matthew 10:39; Matthew 11:29; Matthew 16:24; Matthew 16:26; Matthew 26:10 ff., Mark 8:34 ff; Mark 10:29, Luke 9:23 ff; Luke 14:26 ff; Luke 21:12 ff. etc.). These passages express the Divine claim upon the loyalty of mankind in terms which could not be surpassed. So it is that our Lord declares Himself greater than the Temple (Matthew 12:6), Lord of the Sabbath (Matthew 12:8, Mark 2:28), greater than Solomon (Matthew 12:42).

In the Fourth Gospel this great claim of Christ occupies a much larger space, and is more explicit and more fully stated, but it is a mistake to suppose that it is more strongly expressed. Such a passage as John 5:22-23 ‘He hath given all judgment unto the Son; that all may honour the Son even as they honour the Father,’ is very definite, but it is only putting into general terms the teaching of Matthew 10:37; Matthew 25:31 ff., Mark 8:34-38, Luke 14:26. The tremendous statement in John 10:30 ‘I and the Father are one,’ summing up as it does the teaching of the whole Gospel, finds perhaps its most perfect explication in Matthew 11:27, Luke 10:22. The great section, John 14-17, is but the further development of the same doctrine, introducing, as was necessary, the promise of the Holy Spirit and certain fundamental instruction concerning His function and work.

(2) When from direct statements made by our Lord Himself we pass to the revelation of His consciousness of His unique relation to God which is to be found implied in His life and methods, we are able to note the following:

(a) The unvarying tone of authority which characterizes all His actions and utterances—authority as regards the greatest subjects which have ever engaged the mind of man. See, further, artt. Authority of Christ and Claims of Christ.

(b) The serene certainty of His judgments upon the greatest questions of morality and religion. This characteristic is most noticeable in the Sermon on the Mount, and in all those parts of His teaching which deal with His own relation to God, and God’s love to man. All the highest and greatest things are to Him easy and familiar. He walks upon the mountain peaks of vision with unhesitating confidence. He speaks as One who sees clearly into the heart of God. Examples will be found in the following passages:

Matthew 5:43 ff; Matthew 6:25-34; Matthew 7:7-12; Matthew 11:20-30; Matthew 12:30-37; Matthew 17:20; Matthew 18:7-14; Matthew 22:19-21; Matthew 22:29-33; Matthew 23:37, Mark 2:18-22; Mark 2:27; Mark 9:33-50; Mark 10:42-45; Mark 14:3-9, Luke 2:49; Luke 4:21; Luke 7:22-23; Luke 7:47-50; Luke 10:24-37; Luke 10:15; Luke 17:4; Luke 17:10; Luke 17:20-21; Luke 18:9-14, John 3:3; John 4:24; John 5:17; John 14:2 etc.

(c) He never prays with His disciples. He teaches them to pray, He prays for them, but not with them. (See Chadwick, Christ bearing witness to Himself, pp. 104, 105; and Forrest, The Christ of History and of Experience, p. 22 ff., and Appendix to 5th ed.). We read of solitary prayers (Mark 6:45-48, John 6:15).

(d) The harmonious combination of opposite qualities in His character.—Characteristics which would be incompatible in any one else unite freely and with perfect consistency in Him. Here is perhaps the strongest proof of the absolute truth of the portrait presented in the Gospels. Nothing but the strength and reality of the Personality which inspired the various accounts could have made such a result possible. See, further, artt. Character of Christ, Divinity of Christ, Mental Characteristics.

(ii.) His relation to the Father

(1) Our Lord asserts and implies that He stands in a relation of unique intimacy with God the Father. The great passage already quoted (Matthew 11:27, Luke 10:22) is the fullest statement in the Synoptics. The language here associates the Son with the Father in a manner which exalts Him above all creation. It corresponds with certain characteristic phrases and mental habits of our Lord. For example, He calls God ‘my Father’ in a manner which sets the relation indicated by the words far apart from that Fatherhood which He attributes to God in relation to men, whether disciples or not: see Matthew 7:21; Matthew 10:32-33; Matthew 11:27; Matthew 15:13; Matthew 18:10; Matthew 20:23 etc., Mark 8:38, Luke 2:49; Luke 22:29; Luke 24:49, John 5:17; John 10:29-30; John 14:20; John 20:17 etc. These passages but supply the correlative to the announcement at the Baptism and the Transfiguration (Mark 1:11; Mark 9:7). They also interpret for us the title ‘Son of God’ attributed to Him and accepted by Him (Matthew 4:3; Matthew 4:6; Matthew 8:29; Matthew 14:33; Matthew 27:40; Matthew 27:43; Matthew 27:54, Mark 3:11; Mark 12:6-8; Mark 15:39, Luke 4:41; Luke 22:70, John 1:34; John 1:49; John 9:35; John 11:27 etc.).

In connexion with this we observe the cloudless serenity of His relation to God. It has been remarked that the absence of any note of repentance is the strongest proof of our Lord’s perfect sinlessness. But we have in His life the marks of a moral state which is very much more than mere sinlessness. The value of the negative is entirely relative to the corresponding positive. The perfect innocence of a soul which possessed but small moral capacity would, so far as we can see, be of but little value as a moral factor in the universe. But, in the case of our Lord, we find a moral capacity which is absolutely without parallel in human experience, and we find the moral Being who possesses this capacity not merely conscious of innocence, but living a life which is wittingly and willingly all that God would have it be (see Forrest, op. cit., Lect. I.).

(2) Unity with the Father.—The revelation which our Lord gives us of His relation to the Father amounts to much more than a manifestation of a peculiar intimacy between Himself and God. He claims distinctly certain Divine attributes and privileges. He is King and Judge of all. He is to be the object of the most absolute trust, the utmost devotion. No sacrifice is too great to be made for His sake (see above). To reject Him or His messengers is to reject God and to incur the severest judgment (Matthew 10:15; Matthew 10:40; Matthew 11:22; Matthew 11:24, Mark 12:9, Luke 10:13-14; Luke 10:16; Luke 13:34-35 etc.). The right of the Almighty to supremacy over the hearts and lives of men could not be expressed in stronger terms than those in which Jesus claims human allegiance. The only possible explanation of His attitude is that given by His own words, ‘All things have been delivered unto me of my Father’ (Matthew 11:27, Luke 10:22).

When we turn to the Fourth Gospel, we find this teaching expressed with a fulness and clearness of statement which ought not to appear extraordinary. There must surely have been an inner side to such a life as we find portrayed from the outside in the Synoptics. If the external accounts give so many indications of a unique relation to God, the revelation of the inner life of the wonderful Personality must display that relation with special clearness. What is truly extraordinary is that the inner history, as we have it in St. John’s Gospel, does not reveal any essential element which cannot be found, expressed or implied, in the external histories (see above). And this is the more remarkable when we consider that the method and style of the Fourth Gospel contrast so strongly with those of the others.

From St. John we learn then to think of our Lord: (1) As One who came from God, with whom He was before, on a mission of mercy to mankind, John 3:11-14; John 3:16-17; John 3:31 ff., John 5:24; John 5:30; John 5:43; John 6:29; John 6:32-33 ff., John 6:62; John 7:16; John 7:28 etc. John 8:23; John 8:42 etc John 16:28 ff. (2) As One whose relation to the Father is essential and unique, John 3:13; John 3:18; John 3:34, John 5:17-18; John 5:23; John 5:26, John 6:57, John 8:16, John 10:15; John 10:38, John 14:7; John 14:11. (3) As the only-begotten Son of God, John 3:16; John 3:18, and see John 1:14; John 1:18 (in John 1:18 the stronger μονογενης θεός seems the better reading). (4) As with the Father from all eternity. This may be gathered from John 8:58 ‘Before Abraham was, I am,’ and John 17:5; John 17:24 ‘the glory which I had with thee before the world was,’ ‘Thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.’ These passages justify the extraordinary language of the Prologue (John 1:1-2), ‘the Word was with God,’ ‘the same was in the beginning with God’ (πρὸς τον θεόν). The ἐγὼ εἰμι of John 8:58 certainly implies more than mere pre-existence. (5) As one with the Father: ‘I and the Father are one’ (John 10:30); ‘All things whatsoever the Father hath are mine’ (John 16:15); ‘All things that are mine are thine, and thine are mine’ (John 17:10), etc. The ἕν (one) in John 10:30 is very remarkable. It signifies essence, as distinguished from person. which would be εἶς. The force of it is greatly strengthened by its relation to the context. Our Lord is declaring His power to keep His people. He appeals to the Almighty power of God (John 10:29), identifying His own power with it and adding the explanation, ‘I and the Father are one.’ See also John 5:17, John 12:45, John 14:7-10 etc.

This classification of passages enables us to pass along an ascending plane of thought to that great doctrine which is so comprehensively and yet so briefly expressed in the Prologue to the Gospel. We learn that the Evangelist intended us to gather that the conception of the Logos which is there presented is the true and necessary implication of our Lord’s consciousness of Himself and His work in relation to God and the world.

II. The revelation of God in the Gospels

(i.) The Father.—We must never forget that Christianity was built upon the foundation of Jewish monotheism. A long providential discipline had secured to the Jewish people their splendid heritage of faith in the One and Only God. ‘Hear, O Israel, Jehovah our God is one Jehovah: and thou shalt love Jehovah thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might’ (Deuteronomy 6:4 f.). This was the corner-stone of the religion of Israel. These were perhaps the most familiar of all sacred words to the ears of the pious Jew. They were recited continually. Our Lord Himself had them frequently in His mind (Matthew 22:37, Mark 12:29-30, Luke 10:27). That He thought of God always as the Supreme One is unquestionable. Indeed the very idea of Fatherhood, which, with our Lord, is the characteristic conception, and which is capable of being presented in a way which might weaken or injure a true monotheism, becomes in His teaching absolutely monotheistic because absolutely universal (see Matthew 5:45; Matthew 5:48; Matthew 7:11; Matthew 8:11; Matthew 10:29, Luke 6:35; Luke 13:29-30; Luke 13:15). To the Jewish mind, the sovereignty of God was the natural and characteristic thought. In our Lord’s teaching the Divine Fatherhood overshadows and also transforms the Divine sovereignty, but never threatens to dissolve the pure and splendid monotheism of the original doctrine.

There are three degrees of the Divine Fatherhood presented in the teaching of our Lord: God is the universal Father (see reff. given above); He is, in a very intimate and special way, the Father of the disciples of Jesus (Matthew 5:16; Matthew 6:1; Matthew 6:8-9 ff., Matthew 7:11, Luke 12:32 etc.); He is, in the highest, and unique, sense, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (see above).

It is evident that our Lord makes a very clear distinction between His own Sonship and the relationship in which others, even the most faithful of disciples, stand towards God. Yet, in thus setting Himself apart as the Son of God, He was in truth providing that very element which was required to form a connecting link between the Divine and the human. The great danger of monotheism is its tendency towards a transcendence which removes man to an infinite distance: God and man seem to stand apart from one another in hopeless opposition. Such was the tendency of the Jewish conception in the time of our Lord. (See art. ‘God (in NT)’ by Dr. Sanday in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible ).

We find, then, that the teaching of our Lord and of the Gospels concerning God is the union of a true and unwavering monotheism with a great doctrine of mediation, according to which God and man enter into very close relationship in the Person of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

(ii.) The Son

(1) The Son is a distinct Person from the Father.—It is easy to complicate this question by a discussion of the meaning of the word ‘personality.’ The Latin word persona was chosen to represent the Greek ὑπόστασις, but neither the original nor its translation was adequate. To endeavour to minimize the difficulty of the traditional doctrine by recalling the primitive meaning of persona is surely vain. The truth is that the conception of personality, as we now understand it, did not enter into the thoughts of the ancients at all. They used the language which attached itself most easily to the new distinctions which the rise of Christian theology forced upon their attention, and, in doing so, laid the foundations of our modern philosophical and theological terminology. But the true force of their technical terms may be more accurately gauged by considering the meanings to which they tended, than by going back to meanings which they forsook. It is much better to interpret the Trinitarian doctrine with the help of the modern conception of personality than by means of the Latin word persona; for if the connotation of the term has altered, its denotation is, in this case, the same, and the change of meaning was simply the inevitable development.

The truth of this will become evident when we turn from abstract doctrines and a priori arguments to the facts of the life of Christ as we have them in the Gospels. If any result has emerged from our examination it is this: the Personality of our Lord is the most distinct and the most concrete of which we have any knowledge. If His consciousness included elements which are outside the range of our experience, if His character combined qualities which do not coexist under ordinary human conditions, if there was an unexampled completeness about His moral and spiritual being, then all these great spiritual possessions belonged to His Ego, and therefore that Ego had a distinctness and concreteness surpassing any other human being who ever lived. To confuse the boundaries which give the Ego its distinctness, for the sake of making an abstract doctrine appear more intelligible, is surely a dangerous error. Our Lord was very man, and His Ego had all the self-possession and self-consciousness which give to every human soul its personal distinctness. While we find, in His self-revelation, that He constantly entered into a communion with God which is quite without parallel in human experience, and that He knew the heart of God from within, we also find Him ever distinguishing Himself as a Person from the Father. There is no trace anywhere of the breaking down of the boundaries of personal life. The Hebrew prophet was frequently impelled to speak as the mouthpiece of Jehovah, his personality seemed to dissolve, and the voice of Deity seemed to speak through his lips. So with the mystic, the individual being seems to vanish in the moment of insight, the human drop seems to blend with the ocean of Divinity. In the records of the inner life of our Lord will be found no sign of such experiences. His utterances reveal no displacement of the centre of personal life. He is always self-contained, even in Gethsemane.

This personal distinctness may be seen clearly in the following passages. They are among our Lord’s greatest utterances: ‘All things have been delivered unto me of my Father, and no one knoweth the Son save the Father,’ etc. (Matthew 11:27, Luke 10:22); ‘The Son of Man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels’ (Matthew 16:27); ‘Whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man also shall be ashamed of him, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels’ (Mark 8:38); ‘Not what I will, but what thou wilt’ (Mark 14:36); ‘Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit’ (Luke 23:46); ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ (Mark 15:34); ‘My Father worketh hitherto and I work’ (John 5:17); ‘I and the Father are one’ (John 10:30); ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life: no one cometh unto the Father but by me’ (John 14:6), etc. These examples are selected out of a great number. The Fourth Gospel is especially rich in such passages, and this fact is the more remarkable because it is the Gospel of Christian mysticism. In it we are taught to think of the great unities which are realized in Christ: ‘Thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us’; ‘I in them and thou in me, that they may be perfected into one’ (John 17:21; John 17:23), etc. Yet St. John is very clear as to the distinctness of the Persons: ‘The Logos was with God,’ ‘The same was in the beginning with God’ (John 1:1-2). The phrase is remarkable, τρος τον θεόν. It signifies personal distinctness with active relationship. (Cf. 1 John 1:2 τρος τὸν πτατερκ). We have already seen how emphatic this Evangelist is as to the humanity of our Lord. We now find him equally emphatic as to the true Personality. Yet he is our clearest teacher about the Divinity. Surely we must recognize, as the source of this extraordinary combination, the reality of the life and consciousness to which he testifies, the fact of Christ.

(2) Organic relation of the Son to the Father

(a) The subordination of the Son.—This truth is presented everywhere in the teaching of our Lord. Though He speaks ever as One who enjoys a unique relation of intimacy with the Father, though He claims God as His own Father, yet it is clear that He was filled with reverence towards the Eternal Source of all things from whom His own being is derived.

Certain passages express this very distinctly: Mark 13:32 ‘Of that day and that hour knoweth no one, not even the angels in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.’ These words are usually considered in connexion with the doctrine of the kenosis (wh. see). But they are quite as important as a testimony to our Lord’s consciousness of His own Divine Sonship. Here we find Him placing Himself above the angels in heaven, next to the Eternal Father, and the fact of His ignorance of the great secret noted as extraordinary. The truth is that the implications of this passage involve a Christology which agrees perfectly with the teaching of St. John. There is, however, the clear assertion of the subordination of the Son; and even if His ignorance of the great day be regarded as temporary, part of the limitation involved in His humiliation while on earth, none the less the assertion remains.

Secondly, especial mention may be made of John 14:23 ‘The Father is greater than I.’ As Coleridge observes (see Table Talk, 1st May 1823), these words, which have been used to supply an argument against the orthodox creed, contain, in truth, a very strong implication of our Lord’s Divinity. For a mere man to say, ‘God is greater than I,’ would be monstrous or absurd. Comparison is possible only between things of the same nature. While, therefore, the assertion implies the Divinity, it is a direct statement of the filial subordination of the Son. It is remarkable that, in this statement, our Lord uses the emphatic ‘I,’ as in John 8:58 (τρὶν Ἀβρὰκμ γενεσθαι ἐγὼ εἰμι) and John 10:30 (ἐγὼ καὶ ὁ τατὴρ ἕν ἐσμεν). He does not say, ‘the Son,’ or, ‘the Son of Man.’ It is inadmissible, as Westcott points out, to suppose that He is speaking here otherwise than ‘in the fulness of His indivisible Personality.’ We cannot think that the statement refers merely to the human life of Christ on earth. ‘The superior greatness of the Father must therefore be interpreted in regard to the absolute relations of the Father and the Son without violation of the one equal Godhead.’ (See Westcott, loc. cit., and Additional Note on John 14:28).

(b) The derivative nature of the Son’s Divinity.—We are left in no doubt as to what is the essential nature of this subordination. The Son derives His being, His knowledge, His power, His active life, at every moment, from the Father. For the detailed proof of this we are mainly dependent upon the Fourth Gospel. But here the range of passages which may be adduced is extraordinary.

‘The Son can do nothing of himself’ (John 5:19); ‘As the Father hath life in himself, even so gave he to the Son also to have life in himself’ (John 5:26); ‘I can of myself do nothing’ (John 5:30); ‘I am come down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me’ (John 6:38); ‘I do nothing of myself’ (John 8:28); ‘I spoke not from myself; but the Father which sent me, he hath given me a commandment, what I should say and what I should speak’ (John 12:49); ‘The Father abiding in me doeth his works’ (John 14:10); ‘Thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee’ (John 17:21)

(c) The kenosis.—It is this derivative nature of the Son’s Divinity which helps us to realize that the limitations to which He submitted during His life on earth involved no breach of His Divine identity. Our ordinary experience teaches us that the limitation of our powers does not destroy our identity. If we shut our eyes, we impose upon ourselves voluntarily a limitation which, while it lasts, diminishes very considerably our hold upon reality; yet we continue to be the same identical persons that we were before, and that we shall be again when the voluntary limitation has come to an end. But it is hard to imagine anything similar in the case of the Eternal Source of all being. All that is depends on Him, and any reduction or limitation of His power is inconceivable. Certainly that would seem to be the case, when we think of the Eternal Father. But surely it is different with the Eternal Son. His Divinity is derivative, dependent from moment to moment upon the Father: and therefore there is no difficulty in accepting what seems to be a necessary inference from the facts of the Gospel history, that, during our Lord’s life on earth, there took place a limitation of the Divine effluence. Nor is it necessary to suppose that this limitation was always the same in extent or degree. Here may be the explanation of the awful cry, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ Such a view is not inconsistent with the declaration of St. Paul that ‘it was the good pleasure of the Father that in him should all fulness dwell,’ the whole πλήρωμα of the Deity (Colossians 1:19).

(d) The Logos.—For the use of this term in Christian theology we are indebted to St. John. It is a mark of the inner truth of the Fourth Gospel that nowhere is our Lord represented as using it; for it is not in His manner, nor does it arise naturally out of the thought of the first age of Christian experience (but see Revelation 19:13). It belongs essentially to the age of reflexion and philosophic construction. Yet the term was familiar to the minds of thinkers of various schools at the time. It was the means of drawing together the religious thought of Palestine and the philosophy of Alexandria. In the former, the Memra or Word of Jehovah was regarded as a quasi-personal Divine agency by which the Most High effects His purposes in the world. In the latter, the Logos is a personified abstraction, and must be connected with the Immanent Reason of Greek speculation, though sometimes conceived more concretely (by Philo) as executive power. (See Harnack, Hist. of Dogma, ch. ii. § 5, etc., and throughout, for further development of the Logos conception). See, further, art. Logos.

Both speculatively and historically the Incarnation is the starting-point for that course of thought which leads inevitably to the doctrine of the Blessed Trinity. As soon as Christian thinkers came to realize that the Christ is the Son of God as being the Incarnate Divine Logos, their thought was launched upon that vast speculation as to the nature of God, and especially as to the relation of the Son to the Father, which occupied the minds of theologians during the earlier centuries of Church history.

(iii.) The Holy Ghost.—For a general statement of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit the reader may be referred to art. Holy Spirit in vol. i. and the corresponding art. in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible . Here a briefer and more limited treatment must suffice.

(1) The evidence of the Synoptic Gospels.—The Gospels record a renewed activity of prophetic inspiration in connexion with the Advent of Christ. Of John the Baptist it was foretold, ‘He shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb’ (Luke 1:15). So we read (Luke 1:41; Luke 1:67) of Elisabeth and Zacharias, that, filled with the Spirit, they uttered prophetic language. See also Luke 2:25-27; Luke 2:36. Again, the miraculous conception is ascribed to the operation of the Spirit (Luke 1:35, Matthew 1:18; Matthew 1:20). Equally clear is the statement of the agency of the Holy Spirit at the Baptism of our Lord (Mark 1:10, Matthew 3:16, Luke 3:22). As He entered upon His ministry, the Evangelists tell us that our Lord was guided by the Holy Spirit (Mark 1:12, Matthew 4:1, Luke 4:1-2; Luke 4:14; Luke 4:18). His miracles are performed in the Spirit (Matthew 12:28). In His hour of most profound concentration upon the mystery of His own Person and work we are told, ‘He rejoiced in the Holy Spirit’ (Luke 10:21).

Our Lord’s own teaching on this subject, as given in the Synoptics, recognizes the inspiration of the OT (Mark 12:36, Matthew 22:43), and connects His own miraculous works (Matthew 12:28) and His mission (Luke 4:18) with the agency of the Holy Spirit. Certain of His promises to His disciples can be fully understood only in the light of the teaching which we find in the Fourth Gospel. See Matthew 10:20, Luke 11:13; Luke 12:12; Luke 24:49, Acts 1:4-5; Acts 1:8. Perhaps, however, the strongest passage of all is that in which our Lord warns against the awful sin against the Holy Ghost (Mark 3:29, Matthew 12:32, Luke 12:10). The intensity of our Lord’s language here certainly points to the Deity of the Spirit. See, further, art. Unpardonable Sin.

(2) The evidence of the Fourth Gospel.—Here the work of the Holy Spirit is frequently mentioned. He is the agent in the new birth (John 3:5-8); he living water (John 4:14, John 7:39); the Paraclete (John 14:16); the Spirit of truth (John 14:17, John 15:26, John 16:13), etc. In these and other passages the relation of the Holy Spirit to the Father and to the Son, and His agency in connexion with the work of God in the Church and the world, are presented with extraordinary impressiveness.

(3) The Personality of the Holy Ghost.—It is inevitable, owing to the very use of the ambiguous word πνεῦμα, that in many cases it is impossible to be certain, from the mere language of the passages in which the word occurs or from their context, as to the nature of the agency to which reference is made. It is also necessary to remember that the personification of abstractions may be carried to great lengths when the conception of personality is indefinite, as it certainly was among the ancients, at least to a far greater degree than at present. It would, therefore, be a mistake to infer the Personality of the Holy Spirit from the mere use of language concerning Him which seems to imply it. Such language must be understood in relation to the whole Christian revelation and its interpretation in terms of thought. Yet the language is very strong and very definite. ‘I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Paraclete, that he may be with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth’ (John 14:16-17). The Spirit is here indicated as ‘another,’ One who is to take the place of our Lord Himself as His substitute. Also He is ὁ παράκλητος, τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον (John 14:26). The masculine form of the word is certainly used to impress upon the disciples the truth that the Presence which is to take the place of that to which they had been accustomed is no less a Personal Presence than the other. And this view is strengthened by the repeated and emphatic ἐκεῖνος: ‘he shall teach you’ (John 14:26); ‘he shall bear witness’ (John 15:26); ‘he, when he is come, will convict …’ (John 16:8); ‘he shall guide you …’ (John 16:13); ‘he shall glorify me’ (John 16:14). Not merely the language, strong and emphatic as it undoubtedly is, but the whole argument demands the doctrine of the Personality of the Spirit.

This group of passages also shows very clearly that we are here taught to think of the Spirit as not only personal, but as distinct from the Father and the Son. This appears remarkably in John 14:26 ‘The Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said unto you.’ Again in John 15:26 ‘Whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth which proceedeth from the Father, he shall bear witness of me.’ Language could not make the distinctness of the Persons clearer. Yet strong and clear as this teaching is, we find its strength and clearness greatly increased by the fact that it fits into the scheme of Christian thought as we find that scheme developing in the Epistles of St. Paul and taking more rounded dogmatic form in the later ages of Christian reflexion.

(4) The Divinity of the Holy Ghost.—We can have no doubt on this subject when we have reached the point at which we attain the conviction that, in His great discourse, our Lord teaches us unmistakably the Personality of the Spirit as distinct from that of the Father and of the Son. The Three Persons are here viewed upon a plane of being which is above that of all created things.

In John 14:16; John 14:18; John 14:26; John 15:26; John Joh_16:14-15 the inter-relationship of the Divine Three is expressed and implied. The dependence of both the Son and the Holy Ghost upon the Father appears: ‘I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Paraclete.’ The Spirit ‘proceeds’ from the Father and is sent by the Son (John 15:26, John 16:7). His presence is equivalent to the presence of the Son, for with reference to His coming, our Lord declares (John 14:18), ‘I will not leave you desolate: I come unto you.’ In His relation to the Son, the Spirit is to bring all our Lord’s words to the remembrance of the disciples (John 14:26); He is to bear witness of our Lord (John 15:26), to glorify Him (John 16:14), etc. So important is the work of the Spirit in its connexion with that of the Son, that our Lord solemnly declares the expediency of His own departure in order that the period of the Spirit’s activity may begin. And to this teaching we must add such statements as the following: ‘He that hath seen me hath seen the Father’ (John 14:9); ‘I am in the Father, and the Father in me’ (John 14:10); ‘If a man love me, he will keep my word: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him’ (John 14:24); ‘All things whatsoever the Father hath are mine, therefore said I, that he (i.e. the Spirit) taketh of mine and shall declare it unto you’ (John 16:15). All these refer to the nature and effects of that dispensation of the Spirit concerning which our Lord is instructing His disciples in this great discourse.

Such teaching certainly implies both the Divinity and the Unity of the Three Persons, which throughout are at once distinguished, regarded as inseparably united, and placed upon a plane of being far above all created existence.

III. Summary

(i.) The Baptismal Formula.—We have omitted from our consideration one great passage of first-rate importance on every branch of our subject. It has been kept to the last because it is the nearest thing to a comprehensive and formal statement of the doctrine of the Trinity to be found in Holy Scripture. In Matthew 28:18-20 there is, as the last word of that Gospel, a solemn charge which it is stated our Lord gave to His disciples when they met Him, by His special command, after His resurrection. The charge includes:

(1) a declaration of His universal authority, ‘All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and in earth,’ containing a very strong implication of His Divinity and agreeing with Matthew 11:27 and Luke 10:22 as well as with the teaching of the Fourth Gospel.

(2) A great commission, ‘Go ye therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you,’—words which are at once the greatest command, the greatest prophecy, and the greatest dogmatic statement ever given.

(3) A promise, ‘Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world,’ which has been a source of power and inspiration to the Church ever since.

It is true that this passage belongs to a part of St. Matthew’s Gospel which has been assailed with great persistence, and, on internal grounds, with some apparent reason. It is often argued that the First Gospel contains many additions to the Evangelic narrative which arose from the habits of thought and practice, as well as from explanatory teaching, current in the primitive Church. The account of baptism given here would then be a reflexion of the teaching of a later time. Against this, we have to note that there is no textual evidence against the passage, that 2 Corinthians 13:14 contains the threefold Divine name in a way which shows that the combination was familiar to the mind of the Christian Church at a time which was certainly less than thirty years after the Ascension, and that there is a continuous stream of testimony from the earliest times as to baptism into the threefold name, the Didache providing the connecting link between the Apostolic age and Justin Martyr. But stronger than all these is the fact that this passage merely sums up the teachings concerning God which, as we have seen in detail, may be found scattered throughout the four Gospels. It is surely somewhat hard to suppose that the Christian doctrine of God could have so rapidly assumed the form in which we find it in St. Paul’s Epistles, if our Lord Himself had not brought together the various strands of His teaching; and when was this so likely to happen as when He manifested Himself to His disciples after His resurrection? The truth is that this passage in Mt. supplies exactly the clue we need in order to understand the rapid development of doctrine and the continuity of custom in the early Church. (See Sanday in art. ‘God’ in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible ii. p. 213, and his Criticism of the Fourth Gospel, p. 218; also Scott in art. ‘Trinity’ in DB [Note: Dictionary of the Bible.] , Ext. Vol. p. 313). But there is this further proof of genuineness, that the language here possesses all the power, concentration, and authority which are everywhere the marks of the true sayings of Jesus. There is not a word in this utterance, from ἐδόθη to αἰῶνος, which has not been, in all ages, a source of life to the Church. Here the meaning of the life, death, and teaching of the Son of God is translated into a language which appeals to the minds and hearts of all ages of human history, and this in the most Jewish of the Gospels. Moreover, the prophecy here contained is on too large a scale to have arisen naturally out of the life of the Christian community of the 1st century. Not even to St. Paul was granted so wide an outlook upon the history of mankind. This great vision of a world-wide Christianity belongs to the mind of Him who spoke of the Grain of Mustard Seed and the Draw-Net, and taught His disciples to pray, ‘Thy kingdom come.’

We may, unless our judgments are obscured by critical prejudices, turn to this passage as supplying the needful summary of all those thoughts about God which we have gleaned from the teaching of Christ and the Gospels. The expression εἰς τὸ ὄνομα is important: Christian Baptism is to be ‘into the name.’ The phrase recalls the language of the OT in which the ‘Name’ of God stood for Himself as revealed or brought into relation to men. So the name Jehovah was the sign or mark of the old covenant. Can we fail to gather that the name which marks the new covenant is that of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost? In this name is contained the revelation of God which Christ brought to man. It must also be observed that the word is singular, τὸ ὄνομα, suggesting the unity of the Godhead. The name is threefold, yet it is one.


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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Trinity (2)'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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