In the Trinity doctrine, Jesus is God, but Jesus is not God.

INTRODUCTION

The Trinity Doctrine

In the traditional Trinity theory, God is one Being with one single rational capacity (one single mind) but three co-equal and co-eternal Persons; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. In this view, Jesus, together with the Father and the Spirit, is the Ultimate Reality; the uncaused Cause.

Purpose of this article

The Bible indeed has a very high view of Jesus. For example, through Him, God created and maintains all things (e.g., Heb 1:2-3). The Son, therefore, has ‘always’ existed. The Father gave Him to have “life in Himself” (John 5:26), “all judgment” (John 5:22), and “all authority … in heaven and on earth” (Mt 28:18). The Son is “He who searches the minds and hearts” (Rev 2:23). The Son, in other words, shares in the divine attributes of God.

However, this article shows:

(1) The Bible always maintains a distinction between God Almighty and Jesus Christ (e.g., Rev 21:22). All of Paul’s letters, for example, begin with phrases that make that distinction. For instance:

“Grace to you and peace from God our Father
and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom 1:7).

This is not merely a distinction between the Father and the Son; it is a distinction between ‘God’ and the Son, meaning that the Son is not God.

(2) The Bible presents the Son as a distinct rational capacity (a distinct mind), in contrast to the single rational capacity in the Trinity doctrine. For example, Jesus talks to His Father and prays to His Father. When He was scared before the crucifixion, He asked the Father to not let Him suffer, but, in the end, He said to His Father, ‘Let you will be done, not mine’.

(3) The Bible also presents the Son as subordinate to His Father (e.g., 1 Cor 11:3). For example, even 60 years after His ascension, in John’s visions, Jesus referred to His Father as His God (Rev 1:6; 3:2, 12).

We cannot understand God.

Understanding the relationship between God and His Son is probably impossible because we are trying to understand the infinite and the one Being who exists without cause. That should scare us. Compared to the infinite God and His infinite creation, our world is like a one-cellular organism in a drop of water floating around in the oceans of the world; not knowing where it came from or where it is going. Compared to the Eternal, our existence is fleeting. How could we hope to understand the One who exists without cause?

However, the observant reader will notice that people sometimes use our inability to understand God to justify un-Biblical doctrines. That we must not do.

THE FATHER

Is the Only God.

The Bible is clear that only one God exists. This is stated in both:

      • The Old Testament (e.g., Deut 6:4; Is 44:6; 45:21-22; 43:10-11) and
      • The New Testament (e.g., James 2:19; cf. Mark 12:28-30; Gal 3:20);

In modern languages, the term “God” identifies one single Being; the Ultimate Reality; the One who exists without cause. That concept did not exist in the ancient Greek language and culture. They only had the word theos, which is equivalent to our word “god.” The basic meaning of the term theos is an immortal being with supernatural powers, and the Greek culture had many of those, such as Zeus, the god of the sky and thunder, and Hades, the god of the underworld. The New Testament, written in that same ancient Greek, had to use that same term theos. Therefore, to identify the one single ultimate Reality of Judaism and Christianity, the authors of the New Testament added words to theos, for example:

    • The ‘only theos’, (Jude 1:25; 1 Tim 1:17),
    • The ‘one and only theos’ (John 5:44), and
    • The ‘one theos’ (1 Cor 8:6; 1 Tim 2:5; Eph 4:4-6);
    • The ‘only true theos’ (John 17:3).

The important point is, in all such instances where the one theos is identified through the addition of further words, that that one theos is the Father alone, in contrast to Jesus Christ, who is identified as “Lord.” For example:

“There is but one God, the Father …
and one Lord, Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 8:6).

Please take time to study the verses listed to make sure of this conclusion. Many texts in the Bible refer to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, but these verses specifically define God and must, therefore, be regarded as critically important when we ask who God is.

Of course, once the disciples had realized that Jesus had been resurrected and was alive, they could refer to Him as theos as well. For example, after Thomas for the first time saw Jesus alive after His resurrection, said to Him: “my theos and my Lord.” (John 20:28) But the Father remains the only true theos; the only true god (John 17:3). 1To say that the Father is the ‘only true God’ is saying the same thing twice because, in modern culture, there is only one God. To retain the meaning of the ancient Greek, John 17:3 should be translated as referring to the Father as the “only true god.”

The translation of theos as ‘God’, when it refers to Jesus, is based on the assumption that He is one with the Father and equal with the Father. Such a translation, therefore, is an application of the Trinity doctrine and must not be taken as proof of the Trinity doctrine.

Alone exists without Cause.

The Bible identifies the Father alone as the uncaused Cause of all things. For example:

“There is but one God, the Father,
from whom are all things
and one Lord, Jesus Christ,
BY whom are all things” (1 Cor 8:6). 

All things are from God,
who reconciled us to Himself through Christ”
(2 Cor 5:18-19; cf. Heb 1:1; John 1:3; Rev 4:11).

He is the ultimate Source of life:

“In the presence of God,
who gives life to all things,
and of Christ Jesus” (1 Tim 6:13).

Note that these verses identify God as the Father and contrast God with Christ. The Son, therefore, is not the Cause who exists without cause, as the Trinity doctrine claims. The words “through” and “by” in these verses indicate that God works “through” His Son. God always and in all things works through His Son.

Is alone Immortal.

The Father alone is immortal. For example:

“The King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God” (1 Tim 1:17)

“The King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone possesses immortality … whom no man has seen or can see.” (1 Tim 6:16)

Only the Father exists without cause is, therefore, essentially immortal.
All other beings derive their immortality from that one Uncaused Cause. They are conditionally immortal. Since the Son was begotten by the Father, He exists because God exists.

THE SON

Is distinct from God

The New Testament maintains a consistent distinction between God and the Lord Jesus, which means that Jesus is not God. For example, all letters of the New Testament begin by making a distinction between God and Jesus, such as:

“Peace from God our Father,
and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom 1:7-8).

“Grace be unto you … from God our Father,
and from the Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 1:3-4).

“Blessed be the God and Father
of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph 1:3; cf. Gal 1:3, Eph 1:2, Phil 1:2, Col 1:2, Philemon 1:3, 1 Thess 1:1, James 1:1; 2 Peter 1:2; 2 John 1:3; and Eph 6:23).

Many, many other such passages may be quoted. For example, the book of Revelation contains phrases such as “to God and to the Lamb” and “of God and of the lamb” (Rev 14:4; 11:15; 21:22-23; 22:1, 3).

Trinitarian apologists may argue that this only makes the obvious distinction between the Father and the Son but that is not so. It is a distinction between God and the Son, meaning that the Son is not God in the ultimate sense.

Is a Distinct Rational Capacity.

In the traditional Trinity doctrine, Father, Son, and Spirit are one single rational capacity (literally one mind and will). The Bible, in contrast, depicts Father and Son as distinct rational capacities. For example:

Jesus often prayed to His Father.

Before He had to suffer and die on the Cross, Jesus pleaded with His Father, “If it is possible, let this cup pass from Me;
yet NOT AS I WILL, BUT AS YOU WILL.” (Matt 26:39)

Is the visible Image of God.

God is invisible.

God “dwells in unapproachable light,
whom no man has seen or can see
(1 Tim 6:16-17).

No one has seen God at any time
(1 John 4:12; cf. John 1:18; John 6:46; Col 1:15; John 4:24).

God is invisible because He exists outside our physical realm of time, space, and matter. Nevertheless, that Invisible God is the Source of all things (Heb 11:3).

Jesus is His visible image.

Jesus “is the (visible) image of the invisible God” (Col 1:15). “He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His (God’s) nature” (Heb 1:1, 3; cf. 2 Cor 4:4).

God is invisible, unknowable, and incomprehensible. Human beings are unable to comprehend a Being that is not limited in space or time and Who exists without cause. But in His Son, appearing in a form that we can understand, God becomes knowable, visible, and audible to the material creatures of the universe.

If God is invisible, while Jesus is His visible image, then Jesus is distinct from God and, therefore, not God.

Is at God’s Right Hand.

The New Testament often mentions that Jesus, at His ascension, “was received up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God” (Mark 16:19). Stephen, just before he was stoned, said, “I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:56; cf. Mt 26:62; Acts 2:33; 7:55; Rom 8:34; Eph 1:20.)

His position at God’s right hand is the position of power over the entire universe but still subject to God. That confirms that Jesus is both DISTINCT from God and SUBORDINATE to God.

Considers the Father as His God.

Jesus referred to the Father as His God. For example:

“I ascend to My Father and to your Father,
to My God and to your God” (John 20:17; cf. Matt 27:46).

Even 60 years after His resurrection, when Christ gave to John the Book of Revelation, He identified the Father as His God (Rev 3:2, 12; cf. 1:6). Paul also described the Father as “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph 1:17; cf. Heb 1:8-9).

Since God is also His God, Jesus prayed to God while on earth (John 17:1; Luke 6:16; Heb 5:7). The entire John 17 is a record of Jesus’ prayer to “the only true God” (John 17:1, 3). “He spent the whole night in prayer to God” (Luke 6:16).

POSSIBLE OBJECTIONS

Various articles are available on this website that address possible objections to the view that Jesus is not God.

Jesus is called God.

Of the about 1300 times that the word Greek theos appears in the New Testament, it refers to Jesus about 7 times. So why is Jesus called “God” in those instances?

Firstly, as discussed above, the word theos does not mean ‘God’. The modern concept ‘God’ refers to the one Ultimate Reality. There was no word in the ancient Greek exactly equivalent to ‘God’.

When the Bible uses the word theos for the Father, it is appropriately translated as “God” because the Father is the Ultimate Reality.

When theos describes Jesus, since He is not the Ultimate Reality, it may perhaps be translated as “divine.” To translate such instances of theos as “God” is an application of the Trinity doctrine; not proof there-of. (For a further discussion, see, for example, the article on Hebrews 1:8 or on the word theos.) 

I and the Father are one.

In John 10:30, Jesus said, “I and the Father are one.” Trinitarians interpret this verse as that Jesus and the Father are literally one and the same Being. However, to be “one” does not mean to be literally one Person. Jesus, in His prayer for His followers, defined the term to “be one”:

“That they may be one as we are one“ (John 17:21-23).

To “be one,” therefore, means to be united in purpose and will. It describes a relationship between distinct beings. For example, Jesus said that He did the works of the Father (John 10:32) and He only did what pleased the Father (John 8:28-29). See – I and the Father are one.

He who has seen me has seen the Father.

When Philip said to Jesus, “Lord, show us the Father,” Jesus responded:

“He who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:8-9)

Trinitarians also use this statement to argue that Jesus and the Father are one single Being. However, given the verses quoted above, we should rather conclude that Jesus said here that He is THE EXACT IMAGE of the Father. For a further discussion, see – Seen the Father. 

John 1

Both John 1:1 and 1:18 refer to Jesus as God. However, these same two verses also make a distinction between God and Jesus by saying:

    • “The Word was with God” (John 1:1) and
    • “No one has seen God at any time” (John 1:18). 

Why is He called God if He is distinct from God? As already stated, translators ASSUME that Jesus is the Almighty and, based on that assumption, they translate theos here as “God.” But theos, ar argued, when referring to Jesus, should preferably translated as “divine.”

Furthermore, the article series on John 1:1 concludes that this verse uses theos in a qualitative sense which requires John 1:1c to be translated as:

‘The Word was like God.’

John 1:1 then has the same meaning as Philippians 2:5, which says that Jesus, before His birth, “existed in the form of God” and had equality with God.

The article on John 1:18 shows further that the original text of that verse is disputed. Many ancient manuscripts refer to Jesus as huios (son) and not as theos (god). But even if John originally did describe Jesus as theos, it remains up to the translator to decide whether to translate theos as ‘God’, ‘god’, or ‘divine’.

WHO IS JESUS?

Given how the Bible describes Jesus, for example, that God created all things through Him and that Jesus upholds all things by the word of His power (Heb 1:2-3), finite minds find it difficult to distinguish between God and Jesus. But consider the following thoughts:

Since things exist, and not nothing, something must exist without a cause and, therefore, without a beginning.

Since everything that BEGINS to exist must have a cause, and since our universe had a beginning, our universe was caused by something.

Since the energy and intelligence that formed our universe came from outside our universe, the true but completely incomprehensible Infinity which is the true reality, exists beyond the time, space, and mass of our universe.

Since God created “all things” through Him (e.g., Heb 1:2), the Son has always existed. However, since time is limited to our universe, to say that the Son ‘always’ existed describes the Son only in terms of our little universe. How the Son relates to the incomprehensible Reality beyond our universe is beyond human understanding.

When we say that God created “all things” through the Son, that refers only to our universe. For example, “all things” do not include God or the Son Himself.

So, the Son is the alfa and omega of our existence, but of what exists beyond our universe, namely, the true Reality, we can say about nothing. “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us” (Deut 29:29).

ORIGIN OF THE TRINITY DOCTRINE

A series of articles on this website discusses the origin of the Trinity doctrine. In particular, they show that the decision to adopt the Trinity doctrine was not taken by independent Church Councils, but by the Roman Emperors:

During the first three centuries, while Christianity still was persecuted by the Roman authorities, church fathers such as Polycarp, Justin Martyr, and Irenaeus described Jesus as theos but always as subordinate to the Father, who they identified as the only true and almighty theos (e.g., Origen).

In the fourth century, after the Roman emperors legalized Christianity, they became the de facto head of the church and the final arbiter in doctrinal disputes:

“If we ask the question, what was considered to constitute the ultimate authority in doctrine during the period reviewed in these pages, there can be only one answer. The will of the Emperor was the final authority” (RH, 849). 2Hanson RPC, The Search for the Christian Doctrine of God: The Arian Controversy, 318-381. 1988

Different emperors had different views, but the emperor’s preference always determined the doctrine of the church. For example, very briefly:

Emperor Constantine forced the Nicene Council in AD 325 to include the term homoousios (same substance) in the Creed. Constantine, however, later accept an anti-Nicene view, and recalled the exiled anti-Nicenes.

His successor Constantius and his successor Valens preferred one of the anti-Nicene views (Homoianism) and ensured the dominance of Homoianism in the church.

When Theodosius became emperor, Homoianism dominated but he was convinced of the Trinity doctrine and did something which no emperor has done before him: Through the edict of Thessalonica in AD 380, he made Trinitarian Christianity the state religion of the Roman Empire and outlawed all other forms of Christianity. Through severe persecution, he eradicated non-Trinitarian Christianity from within the Roman Empire.

One can say that the Arian Controversy began when persecution ceased and the Controversy ended when persecution resumed.

During the fifth century, Germanic tribes, who previously migrated into the Empire, reached such large numbers and such high positions in the Roman army that they, in reality, controlled the Western Roman Empire. They divided the territory of the Western Empire into Germanic kingdoms. Since these Germanic peoples became Christian in the fourth century while ‘Arianism’ still dominated the church, the Western Empire was ‘Arian’ once again! In the Eastern Roman Empire (the Byzantine Empire), with Constantinople as its capital, Nicene Christianity remained dominant.

In the sixth century, Emperor Justinian, emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire purposed to free the Roman Church in the west from Arian domination. He sent troops and significantly weakened the Arian nations. He dispersed the Vandals to the fringes of the empire, forced the Ostrogoths back north to South Austria, and barricaded the Visigoths with the new province of Spania.

Some Arian nations remained, but after Justinian had liberated the Roman Church from Arian domination, the Byzantine Empire continued to protect, strengthen, and reign over the west through the Roman Church. Two centuries of Byzantine rule over the Papacy (known as the Byzantine Papacy) converted the remaining Arian kingdoms, one after the other, to Trinitarian Christianity.

The Roman Church that subsequently became the church of the Middle Ages was the continuation of the Trinitarian state religion or Church of the Roman Empire. As stated in Revelation 13:2, the dragon (the Roman Empire), gave the beast from the sea (the Church of the Middle Ages) “his power and his throne and great authority.” Through her control over civil authorities, she put people to death who opposed her teachings.

It is impossible to deny the decisive influence of emperors on the church’s acceptance of the Trinity doctrine.

THE END-TIME PERSECUTION

All Christians agree that the doctrine of God is the most important doctrine of the church. Therefore, for the mainstream church, the Trinity doctrine is the most important doctrine and the identifying mark of true Christianity. People who reject it are regarded and treated as outsiders and heretics. During the Middle Ages, such people were even killed.

Opposition to the Trinity doctrine has been subdued by various means, including by important sounding but vague terms making it very difficult to understand what the issues are.

But the opposition to the Trinity doctrine has not been fully exterminated. The Trinity doctrine distorts the Bible and, in the end-time, the truth of the Bible will be revealed and the first great controversy in the church will again erupt to become the last Great Controversy.

OTHER ARTICLES

FOOTNOTES

John 17:3 – God is One; The only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent

John 17:3 summarizes this article, for it makes the three points discussed in this article:
      1 –  God is One; There is but one true God.
      2 – Jesus is contrasted with the one true God.
      3 – The Father is greater than the Son, for He sent Him.

The previous article explains the three views of the Son of God:

(1)   A created being
(2)   Derived from the Father
(3)   Always existed; co-equal with the Father.

The current article compares the Son to the Father.

This is an older article, and has been replaced with two other articles, namely Jesus is not the same Person as God and  God is the Head of Christ.

GOD IS ONE.

God is OneThe Bible declares that God is One;

There is no other God besides Me …
For I am God, and there is no other
” (Isa 45:21-22).

Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!”. (Deut 6:4-5)

When the scribes asked Jesus what the most important commandment is, He started by quoting this truth from Deuteronomy:

The foremost is, ‘hear, o Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord” (Mark 12:28-30).

And James also wrote God is One:

Christianity and Judaism are monotheistic religions, compared to the surrounding cultures with their multitudes of gods.

THE BIBLE CLEARLY AND REPEATEDLY DISTINGUISHES BETWEEN GOD AND JESUS.

For instance, while Joseph and Mary were still carrying the baby Jesus around, God told Joseph where to go (Matt 2:12, 22).  And Jesus said:

John 17:3

This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3).

This verse confirms that God is one, and then continues to contrasts Jesus to God.  Paul similarly wrote:

For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim 2:5)

Image of the invisible GodHe (Christ) is the image of the invisible God” (Col 1:15), which implies He is not “the invisible God“.

God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus” (1 Tim 6:13).

The book of Revelation several times contrasts Christ with God, for instance “the throne of God and of the Lamb (Christ)” (Rev 22:3; see also 14:4; 11:15; 21:22-23; 22:1, 3).

These are merely a few examples of the many, many instances where the Bible contrasts God with Jesus, implying that Jesus is not equal to God. One may protest by noting that these quotations all apply—not the Son of God before He became a human being—but to the human being named Jesus. We must also remember the point made in the previous article, namely that “although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men” (Phil 2:6-7).

The Father is greater than the Son.

The names Father and Son imply that the Father is greater than the Son. The quotations below also indicate that the Father is greater than the Son.  As stated, to become a human being, the Son emptied Himself (Phil 2:6-7). It may therefore be argued that the statements below have been made in the context of the Son after He emptied Himself. However, the phrases in bold orange seem to say that the Father was greater than the Son even before He became a human being, and will always remain greater than the Son:

The Son can do nothing of HimselfThe Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing” (John 5:19; cf. John 14:31).

I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me” (John 8:28; cf. 5:30).

The works which the Father has given Me to accomplish—the very works that I do—testify about Me, that the Father has sent Me” (John 5:36).

My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me” (John 7:16, cf. 17:3).

The Father therefore told His Son what to do and the Father has sent His Son to this world.  These things happened before He became a human being and provide evidence of the Son’s eternal subservient position, relative to the Father.

the Father is greater than IJohn 14:28 records Jesus saying, “If you loved Me, you would have rejoiced because I go to the Father, for the Father is greater than I”.  He made this statement while talking about going to the Father, implying that the Father will be greater than Him even after He has returned to the Father.

The Father … has given all things into His hand” (John 3:35).

The Father has given all judgment to the Son” (John 5:22).

Paul concluded, “the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ” (I Cor 11:3).  Paul made this statement long after Jesus ascended to heaven.  We therefore need to accept that the Father always has been and always will be greater than His Son.

CONCLUSION

This article states that God is One and that the New Testament contrasts Jesus with that one true God.  The New Testament also claims that the Father is greater than the Son.  If this was all we knew about Jesus, we would have had to conclude that He is not divine.  But in the articles to follow statements will be analysed which seem to confirm the Son’s divinity.  The last article in the series combines all this evidence into a conclusion.

SERIES OF ARTICLES

This is the second in a series of seven articles:

(1) The three views of the Son of God.
(2) God is One, the Son contrasted with God and the Father is greater than the Son.
(3) What the Son does: He created and upholds all things.
(4) What the Son is: fullness of Deity
(5) The Son is worshiped.
(6) The Son is Yahweh of the Old Testament.
(7) Conclusion: Is He created, derived or eternally co-equal?