This was produced in the 15th century by Andrei Rublev's icon of the Trinity, a highly regarded Russian orthodox artist:

Andrei Rublev's icon of the Trinity

It is generally taken to be depicting the three men of Genesis 18 as being physical visitations of the Godhead.

Are there any texts from authoritative commentaries, the early church fathers, theologians or research that support Rublev's depicted interpretation of this passage?

Different denominations may have differing views so please quote your source references.

  • 2
    This question is very broad, since you ask for 4 distinct answers. Can you narrow the focus by asking about a single denomination?
    – Flimzy
    Aug 12, 2014 at 22:44
  • 3
    Can you explain in more detail what exactly is depicted? Did he think that the three men were the three persons of the trinity? It would be better to ask directly about that rather than talking about the icon.
    – curiousdannii
    Aug 13, 2014 at 3:55
  • 1
    The Midrash says that an angel is never sent on more than one mission at a time. One to bring the news of Sodom and Gomorrah, the next the news of Isaac, and the third one had to go and rescue Lot. I am not sure that this would support the Trinity view - just angels about their business. Aug 13, 2014 at 8:57
  • 3
    Something tells me that you're unlikely to find a Midrash that supports the Christian doctrine of the Trinity... Aug 13, 2014 at 12:46

2 Answers 2


Among church fathers, Ambrose is one supporter:

Abraham, who was glad to receive strangers, faithful to God and tireless in his service and prompt in fulfilling his duty, saw the Trinity typified. He added religious devotion to hospitality, for although he beheld three, he adored one, and while keeping a distinction of the persons, yet he called one Lord, thus giving honor to the three but signifying one power. (On His Brother, Satyrus 2.96)

Caesarius of Arles similarly writes:

He received the three men and served them loaves out of three measures. Why is this, brothers, unless it means the mystery of the Trinity? [...] In the fact that he saw three, as was already said, he understood the mystery of the Trinity, but since he adored them as one, he recognized that there is one God in three persons. (Sermon 83.4)

Origen actually finds images of the members of the Trinity in the food that is served. The calf represents Christ (Homilies on Genesis 4.2), and the preparation of three equal measures of flour into bread is an image of the Trinity (On Abraham 1.5.38).

Other fathers are not so supportive of this idea. Ephrem the Syrian believed just one of them was the Lord (Commentary on Genesis, 15.1), while Augustine called all three of them angels (City of God, 16.29).

See the Ancient Christian Commentary if you'd like to investigate further.


Catholic Perspective

The Navarre Bible - Pentateuch explanatory note on Gen 18:1-15 has in part:

This new appearance of God to Abraham is somewhat mysterious: the three men stand for God. When Abraham speaks to them, sometimes he addresses them in singular (as if there were only one person there: cf. v.3), and sometimes in the plural (as if they were three: cf. v.4). That is why some Fathers interpreted this appearance as an early announcement of the mystery of the Holy Trinity; others, following Jewish tradition (cf. Heb 13:2) take these personages to be angels. The sacred text says that one of the three men ([the LORD]), apparently stays with Abraham (cf. v. 22), while the other two, who are referred to as angels, go to Sodom (cf. 19:1).

  • How is this interpretation of Genesis 18 received by the Roman Catholic Church - the post wrote. I do not see why there should be a -1 downvote against my answer.
    – user13992
    Jan 15, 2015 at 18:24
  • Whether or not this image is considered to be a portrayal of the Holy Trinity will vary. As we do not know what Rublev's intent was there is no discrete conclusive answer. Therefore it was the intent of the question that individuals' understanding from their denominational viewpoints would create an interesting comparative narrative. In that vein this contribution was informative. Clearly others feel differently. <><
    – Maple Lad
    Apr 2, 2016 at 8:02

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