Sunday 16 February 2020

Where is there evidence of the Trinity in the Bible?

God in 3D: Finding the Trinity in the Bible and the Church Fathers

A little word about my new book on the Trinity
My new book tackles a famous problem of Christian thought: where is there any mention of the Trinity in the Bible? Is the concept of the Trinity in the Bible? Is the doctrine of the Trinity in the Bible? Does it matter if the Trinity is mentioned in the Bible? Is belief in the Trinity important?
And with it, this question: can we understand the Trinity? Is there an easy way to understand the Trinity? How can we help someone who says, "I don't understand the Trinity"? Can we explain the Christian belief in the Trinity?
And what about asking: where did belief in the Trinity come from? What might the first century Christians have thought about it?
Understanding the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit deeper is a very Christian thing to do. And we can bring much neglected knowledge to the question. It’s knowledge that helps us to understand what early Christians thought about it.

From the Bible

This book aims to present the clearest possible information from Scripture, and show that you can understand the Trinity. It presents the historical evidence that belief in a three-in-one God was always a Christian understanding of God, from the first. And their understanding assists ours. It’s very much to do with the Christian idea of being a “temple of the Holy Spirit.”

Their understanding has not been much noticed because Christian apologists and theologians have not been looking in the right place for the origins of belief in the Trinity. Typically, they have been working backwards from the 4th century Nicene Creed, to look for the Trinity using the language of the creed. They have not paid enough attention to the fact that something more ancient, the Hebrew Scriptures, provided the first Christians with different language for God. Earlier Christians saw a definitive three-in-one God about which they wrote. That insight was lost over time: this new book explains how it was lost and how it can be recovered.

This is about an Old Testament type of the Trinity. It is a model of the Trinity that was known to the New Testament authors and the early church fathers but has been largely forgotten. It traces a line from the Old Testament to the New Testament to show how the disciples were primed by Scripture to believe in the Triune God.

From the New Testament

An ancient and simple demonstration of the Trinity goes like this, using the idea of the temple to explain the Trinity. (A temple is a house for a god, where its god can be found living, so to speak.) This is how it is explained:  the temple of the one true God ought to be dwelled in by the one true God and by no-one else. Okay, but then what? Well, standard Christian belief is that the “temple” is the church community. And even individual Christians are temples who say, “My body is a temple of the Holy Spirit.” So if the Church is a temple, what God lives in it?

And here’s the thing: the Church is found to be the dwelling place of God and Christ and Spirit. Three persons in a temple that exists for only one God. It is thus difficult to see how they would not qualify as one God: Father, Son and Spirit in one temple can only be one God. This is their temple to dwell in, and they are its God. Their act of together indwelling the temple of the one true God is thus a demonstration of the Trinity, the three-in-one God of the temple. In the temple of God, we find the triune God. This sort of word-picture is more in tune with Semitic thought than the abstract thought of philosophers.

This argument was taught by numerous church fathers, and you can find their quotes in my book: Cyprian, Ambrose, Augustine, Jerome, Cyril and others. They all knew that argument. This vital information is lacking from many a book on the Trinity, and my new book remedies that.

From the Old Testament

The New Testament was able to develop this idea from a precedent in the Old Testament. In an even more explicit word-picture, Solomon’s temple features a Trinity of God, his Name and his Glory. There we find God in heaven and, in the temple, his double spiritual presence, known as the Name and the Glory.

When it is focussed on this pattern, the New Testament attaches the identity of "the Name" to Jesus, and the identity of "the Glory" to the Holy Spirit, while the identity of God in heaven attaches to the Father. My book gives special prominence to the evidence for this.

So, to see where the Trinity can be found in the Bible, we have to visit Solomon’s temple. The Old Testament type of the Trinity is shown in the divine presence in the Jerusalem temple. We learn of God’s presence in the temple in the words used for it: Name and Glory. “God, his Name and his Glory” are a type of the Trinity, a three-in-one God.

At Solomon’s temple, we learn the unique identity of the Name of God, and of the Glory of God. We learn that God sends his Name and his Glory to dwell in Solomon’s temple. “The Name” is dwelling in Solomon’s temple, while “the Glory” is filling the temple. (The support of scholars for these ideas is all included in the book.)

Buying direct from the publisher:

From the Old Testament to the New Testament

This lovely picture of the Trinity is shown to be directly carried over into the New Testament with its knowledge of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The early church made these key connections:

  • connecting the church with the temple
  • Christ with "the Name" that was dwelling in Solomon’s temple
  • and the Holy Spirit with "the Glory" of God that filled Solomon’s temple

It is shown to be no mere coincidence that the Trinity of God, his Name and his Glory parallels the Trinity of God, his Son and Spirit.

In Judaeo-Christian belief, only one true God exists: and indeed God, his Name and his Glory can only ever be one God. This is the simple equation:

God + his Name + his Glory = one God
Now, early Christians pinned the identity of the Name and the Glory on Jesus and the Holy Spirit respectively. The idea of a temple played its part in how this understanding was carried over. The early church understood that Christians are temples of Christ and the Spirit.

Because the church is a temple of the Trinity, these three are one God:

God + his Son + his Spirit = one God

One temple for one God. So that is the Trinity. In the Old Testament: God, his Name and his Glory. In the New Testament: the Father, the Son and the Spirit. It is the same Trinity. This is the parallel we discover:
At Solomon’s temple                                    In the church community
God in heaven hears prayers                      God the Father in heaven hears prayers
The Name dwells in the temple                 Christ dwells in the church
The Glory fills the temple                            The Holy Spirit fills the church

The match is established thoroughly, across multiple points, across Scripture.

What’s different about this book?

God in 3D is the first modern publication to present the evidence for this account of the Trinity in the Bible. Although its development can be traced through the Bible and into the early church, no publication to date has pulled together the elements that enable us to see the Trinity in this fresh light. This nicely supplements recovering what the early church fathers wrote about the Trinity being the three-in-one God of the temple.

My book, then, is about God and his Name and his Glory, as revealed in the Old Testament temple; and about how it is matched to God and his Son and his Spirit as revealed in the New Testament temple.

This book provides what readers increasingly want. If you claim that something is in the Bible nowadays, you ought to be able to place a finger on the page where it is found, to justify that claim. This book does what it says on the tin: it finds the Trinity in Scripture, not ad hoc proof-texting with a verse here about Jesus, and a verse there about the Spirit, but rather by showing that the Trinity is plainly on the page. This is demonstrated in a way that is easy for the reader to understand, remember and teach. Where people have doubts about the Trinity, they tend to want to be able to put their finger on a page of the Bible and say, “I see a three-in-one God there!” This book is ground-breaking, delivering exactly that for readers.

God in 3D avoids the common pitfalls of writing about the Trinity, such as writing off the whole doctrine as beyond understanding, or dubiously proof-texting from a scripture here or there, or blinding the reader with philosophy. This new book demonstrates the Trinity from a survey of the Bible, through the history of the Israelites, the Gospels and the writings of the early church. Through salvation history.

No recourse is made to typical analogies for the Trinity. In older books on the subject of the Trinity, the reader is usually presented with dubious analogies, such as comparing water, ice and steam. This is all avoided.

Unfortunately, such books also tend to argue backwards from the standpoint of defending the fourth century creed. What is more, they tend to weaken their case by asserting that the first Christians had no awareness of being Trinitarian in any way, shape or form. This is also avoided.

In God in 3D, we discover how the disciples were primed by the Old Testament and prepared by Jesus to understand the Triune God in this clear way: as the three-in-one God of the temple.

This avoids treating it as an incomprehensible mystery. It is accessible to the general reader. A non-theological vocabulary will do. The book presents this in layman’s language. The book is suitable for the general reader. The reader does not need a theology degree. It demystifies the doctrine of the Trinity. The book also engages at a scholarly level, but is readable to the non-specialist.

The Christian reader should feel empowered to defend the doctrine of the Trinity with confidence. It is intended that pastors be able to employ the book’s message, so an easy-to-use guide is provided for giving congregations plain teaching on the Trinity. Straightforward sections set out how the Trinity can be taught simply. The ordinary person is provided with an accessible biblical understanding of the Trinity and the pastor is more equipped for teaching about it.

This book has theological, practical and spiritual implications. God in 3D provides a properly integrated view of the work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in the church. It includes chapters devoted to a practical approach to Christian spirituality. It is for Christians who want to connect belief to spiritual practice, with a dedicated section on exploring Trinitarian spirituality, based on the book’s theme. The reader is given a practical way of incorporating Trinitarian thinking into their devotions and their understanding of the faith - the Christian spiritual life is enriched by knowing God, his Name and his Glory, the Holy Trinity.

The second half progresses onto an assessment of the Trinitarian creeds in the light of this book’s message. An understanding of the temple-dwelling Trinity sheds light on the classic church creeds.

In all, the reader will find here a clear scriptural demonstration of the Trinity. This is a joined-up demonstration in both Old and New Testaments. We see how the disciples were primed by Scripture, and prepared by Jesus, to believe in the Trinity in language of their time. And recent scholarship in temple theology and Name theology is included to validate the argument.

Discussion of the Trinity has often been hampered by impenetrable language and out-of-date apologetics, and this book will put something fresh and helpful in people’s hands.

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