Christianity has held the number three in high esteem, as a symbol of completeness. For instance : The Trinity, The threefold office of Christ namely, that of prophet, priest, and king; three gifts Infant Jesus received from the Magi, Boy Jesus'stay in the Temple for three days , the three temptations of the the Lord, His Ministry which lasted three years, His pleading in the Garden, made thrice, to take away the cup of suffering; the three convicts including Jesus crucified, His resurrection on the third day, St Peter's confession of faith made three times, after his denial of the Lord made thrice-- are some of the examples.

Now, apart from the significance of No. 3 in religious connotation, there is an inherent belief in the people across different cultures around the world that the number denotes completeness. For instance, the umpire signals thrice to start a race; many competitive examinations allow only three attempts by an individual candidate; on-the-spot auctions are finalized by repeating the final bid thrice; vegetables and grains are washed thrice (in still water by those who cannot afford running water) in order to thoroughly clean them. The list goes on.
One is inclined to believe that Christianity being the religion with the largest coverage, its way of looking at No. 3 as the number of completeness has directly or indirectly influenced the world. But, official teachings or views of the scholars are hard to come by.

My question therefore, is: According to Christian scholars, did people of different cultures adopt No. 3 to signify completeness, from Christianity?
Inputs from any denomination are welcome.

  • 2
    The number three takes significance in scripture from 'two or three witnesses' (Deuteronomy 9:15 and 2 Corinthians 13:1). One event is happenstance, two events may be coincidence but three events is close to a conclusion. Therefore I doubt anything significant can be gleaned from the general use of 'three' in cultural documentation. It is even used as a marker by day-traders on the Stock Market as shares are supported (or not) against fluctuation. After three events of a similar kind, there is a rush to either buy or sell.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Nov 18, 2022 at 10:52
  • youtube.com/watch?v=J8lRKCw2_Pk Commented Nov 18, 2022 at 13:27
  • The question would benefit from some examples of cultures that have adopted 3 to signify completeness. Without that, the question as to whether they did that because of Christianity cannot be answered. Commented Nov 22, 2022 at 20:51
  • This paper shows how Ancient Egyptian religion (pre-Christian) made extensive use of trinities and triads. jaauth.journals.ekb.eg/… Commented Nov 22, 2022 at 21:16

1 Answer 1


A less than complete answer will be given if consideration is only given to the idea of non-Christian cultures adopting and invoking the number three from Christianity. After all, the number three is often used in the more ancient Hebrew scriptures, right from creation. This answer simply mentions two ancient, pre-Christian cultures that invoked the number three in their worship.

Although a triad is not a trinity, Hinduism has a triad of deities. The Hindu triad is called 'Trimurti' and is worshipped in the form of the guru principle Dattatrya. Let me quote from a Hindu scholar on this:

"Sometimes the three gods Brahma (a personification of the impersonal Brahman), Vishnu and Shiva are grouped together in a triad called Trimurti, occasionally although wrongly described as a 'Hindu trinity'." Encyclopedia of World Faiths, Ed. Bishop & Darton, p 193 article on Hinduism by Dr Ursula King (Macdonald Orbis 1987)

The ancient Greek goddess Hecate was also seen as a triad (which, again, is not a trinity but invokes the number three) The link I had for that, many years ago, is no longer working. Perhaps someone else can find one.

So, very ancient pagan religions felt the number three was highly significant in their view of their multiple deities.

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