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My understanding is that "Trinity" is not is not used in the Christian Bible to define the three hypostases: God, Christ, and Holy Spirit. What then is the historical origin of the Doctrine of the Trinity?

Put another way, when and from whom did the word "Trinity" come about in relation to the hypostases? Is there a reason "Trinity" appears in the Christian lexicon rather than referring to the specific hypostasis?

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2 Answers 2

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Regarding first part of your question that “Trinity" is not used in the Christian Bible: answer to this question tries to give the biblical basis for Trinity,

Regarding your second part of the question, on historical origin of the Doctrine of the Trinity, I have come across the following historical notings of Church fathers.

The apostolic Fathers unanimously taught that the "we" in Gen 1:26, refers to the Trinity:

  1. 74 AD Epistle of Barnabas: (Epistle of Barnabas, Chapter VI-- Though this is not part of Canon, we get the insight that the idea of Trinity was being discussed at that point of time)
  2. 150 AD Justin Martyr: (Dialogue of Justin Martyr, with Trypho, a Jew: Chapter LXII.—The Words "Let Us Make Man")
  3. 180 AD Irenaeus (Against Heresies 4:20:1).
  4. 200 AD Tertullian: "If the number of the Trinity also offends you, as if it were not connected in the simple Unity, I ask you how it is possible for a Being who is merely and absolutely One and Singular, to speak in plural phrase, saying, "Let us make man in our own image, and after our own likeness; " whereas He ought to have said, "Let me make man in my own image, and after my own likeness," as being a unique and singular Being? In the following passage, however, "Behold the man is become as one of us," He is either deceiving or amusing us in speaking plurally, if He is One only and singular. Or was it to the angels that He spoke, as the Jews interpret the passage, because these also acknowledge not the Son? Or was it because He was at once the Father, the Son, and the Spirit, that He spoke to Himself in plural terms, making Himself plural on that very account? Nay, it was because He had already His Son close at His side, as a second Person, His own Word, and a third Person also, the Spirit in the Word, that He purposely adopted the plural phrase, "Let us make; "and, "in our image; "and, "become as one of us." (Tertullian, Against Praxeas, Chapter XII. Other Quotations from Holy Scripture Adduced in Proof of the Plurality of Persons in the Godhead.)
  5. 200 AD Tertullian: (Tertullian, Book V, Elucidations, Chapter VIII.—Man the Image of the Creator, and Christ the Head of the Man.)
  6. 200 AD Tertullian: (Tertullian: On the Resurrection of the Flesh, Elucidations, Chapter V.—Some Considerations in Reply Eulogistic of the Flesh. It Was Created by God.)
  7. 250 AD Ignatius (The Epistle of Ignatius to the Antiochians, Chapter II.—The True Doctrine Respecting God and Christ.)
  8. Origen: "it was to Him that God said regarding the creation of man, "Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness." (Origen Against Celsus, Book V, Chapter XXXVII)
  9. Novatian: (A Treatise of Novatian Concerning the Trinity, Chapter XXVI. Argument.—Moreover, Against the Sabellians He Proves that the Father is One, the Son Another.)
  10. Constitutions of the Holy Apostles: (Constitutions of the Holy Apostles, Book V., VII)

Similar references are also there form all these apostolic Fathers while they were preaching about the concept of Trinity by quoting Genesis 19:24:

  1. 150 AD Justin Martyr: Dialogue of Justin Martyr, with Trypho, a Jew, Chapter LVI.—God Who Appeared to Moses is Distinguished from God the Father.)
  2. 180 AD Irenaeus " (Irenaeus, Book 3, ch 6)
  3. 200 AD Tertullian "That is a still grander statement [of Christ's deity] which you will find expressly made in the Gospel: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." There was One "who was," and there was another "with whom" He was. But I find in Scripture the name Lord also applied to them Both: "The Lord said unto my Lord, ....... but in determinate and simple declarations?" (Tertullian, Against Praxeas, [In which he defends, in all essential points, the doctrine of the holy Trinity.] Chapter XIII.—The Force of Sundry Passages of Scripture Illustrated in Relation to the Plurality of Persons and Unity of Substance. There is No Polytheism Here, Since the Unity is Insisted on as a Remedy Against Polytheism.)
  4. 250 AD Ignatius " (The Epistle of Ignatius to the Antiochians, Chapter II.—The True Doctrine Respecting God and Christ.)
  5. 253 AD Cyprian (The Treatises of Cyprian, Treatise XII. Three Books of Testimonies Against the Jews. Third Book., Testimonies., 33. That the Father judgeth nothing, but the Son; and that the Father is not glorified by him by whom the Son is not glorified.)
  6. Novatian: (A Treatise of Novatian Concerning the Trinity, Chapter XXVI. Argument.—Moreover, Against the Sabellians He Proves that the Father is One, the Son Another.)
  7. Novatian (A Treatise of Novatian Concerning the Trinity, Chapter XVIII. Argument.—Moreover Also, from the Fact that He Who Was Seen of Abraham is Called God; Which Cannot Be Understood of the Father, Whom No Man Hath Seen at Any Time; But of the Son in the Likeness of an Angel.)
  8. Constitutions of the Holy Apostles: " (Constitutions of the Holy Apostles, Book V. XX. A Prophetic Prediction Concerning Christ Jesus.)
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Your question pre-supposes that, since the word "Trinity" is excluded from the Bible, then the "historical origin of the doctrine of the Trinity" is also excluded from the Bible. However, I would beg to differ.

For example, consider the word "monotheism." It too is excluded from the Bible; you will not find the word "monotheism" written explicitly in the text of the Bible.

"Monotheism" is defined as "the doctrine or belief that there is only one God. The Bible states that "there is one God, and there is no other but Him" (Mark 12:32).

  • Since "monotheism" is defined as "the doctrine or belief that there is only one God,"
  • and the Bible (loc. cit.) states that "there is one God, and there is no other but Him,"
  • then we may conclude that the Bible confirms monotheism even though the word "monotheism" itself is not explicitly mentioned in the Bible.

The name of a doctrine does not need to be explicitly stated in scripture as long as the elements which define the doctrine are stated or implied.

The historical origin of the doctrine of the Trinity is the Bible. If you would like to know what the doctrine of the Trinity entails, another dedicated question may be in order.

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See edits made to my original post. Monotheism is a good analogy here, but is different than what I'm asking in the sense that monotheism is self-evident in context of the bible, while the Trinity may not be. –  bn. Jan 14 '13 at 2:04
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@bn: I disagree that monotheism is self-evident. While the Bible does say that there is one God (Mark 12:32: εἷς ἐστιν θεὸς), there are other beings also referred to as θεός, including Satan, who is described as "the god of this world" (2 Cor. 4:4: ὁ θεὸς τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου). Remember, capitalization that exists in English to distinguish "god" versus "God" did not exist in original Greek manuscripts. It is an English construct. Both "god" and "God" would be derived from a Greek word that looked exactly like this: ΘΕΟΣ, without miniscules. –  H3br3wHamm3r81 Jan 14 '13 at 2:29
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H3br3wHamm3r81: I'm thinking of Ex. 20:1-4 & Deut. 5:6-7 which seems pretty clear in support of monotheism. –  bn. Jan 14 '13 at 2:35
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More like henotheism, rather than monotheism. Exo. 20:3: Thou shalt have no other gods before me. (Then other gods do in fact exist.) Deut. 5:6: I [am] the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage. (YHVH your God, but not the god of others; cp. Exo. 23:32-33.) Again, monotheism is hardly self-evident. –  H3br3wHamm3r81 Jan 14 '13 at 2:42
    
@H3br3wHamm3r81 - "While the Bible does say that there is one God (Mark 12:32: εἷς ἐστιν θεὸς), there are other beings also referred to as θεός" - Bible states that there is only One Creator of all things, and among other beings referred to as θεὸς only that One who created everything is the real God. –  brilliant Jun 23 '13 at 7:15

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