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YES, YOU SHOULD BELIEVE IN THE TRINITY!
CHAPTER 3: PAGAN ROOTS OF THE TRINITY?
- WHAT ABOUT EGYPTIAN, BABYLONIAN, AND HINDU TRIADS?
- THE STORY OF CIVILIZATION: Part III, Caesar and Christ, by Will Durant
- EGYPTIAN RELIGION, by Siegfried Morenz
- THE PAGANISM IN OUR CHRISTIANITY, by Arthur Weigall
- ENCYCLOPAEDIA OF RELIGION AND ETHICS, by James Hastings
- THE NEW SCHAFF-HERZOG ENCYCLOPEDIA OF RELIGIOUS KNOWLEDGE
- THE CHURCH OF THE FIRST THREE CENTURIES, by Alvan Lamson
- OUTLINES OF THE HISTORY OF DOGMA, by Adolf Harnack
- A STATEMENT OF REASONS, by Andrews Norton
WHAT ABOUT EGYPTIAN, BABYLONIAN, AND HINDU TRIADS?
At this point, the Watchtower booklet endeavors to validate their claims against the Trinity by trying to establish a link between the doctrine of the Trinity found in Christianity and the pagan “gods” of ancient religions. On page 10 of the Trinity brochure, endeavoring to convey the idea that the doctrine of the Trinity is of pagan origin, the Society pictures sculptures of Egyptian, Babylonian, and Hindu false gods of past centuries along with pictures of Trinitarian figures in more recent centuries. However, the Society totally overlooks one of the major difference between pagan false gods and Trinitarian doctrine.
Far from the teachings of Christian monotheists who hold to the concept that the Triune God is three persons yet one God, pagans were polytheists who believed in many gods. One prime example of this can be found in the Watchtower’s illustration of the so-called Egyptian “Triad of Horus, Osiris, Isis.” The Society fails to mention, however, that this so-called “triad” was actually comprised of a family of several gods (not just three), led by a head god named “Amon Ra.” This god family consisted of Seb (father) and Nut (mother) whose god children were Set, Nedphthys, Isis, and Osiris. Osiris then married his sister, Isis, and begot Horus, Seth, and (in some pagan cults) a third child named Anpu.1. Therefore, simply because one may find pagan sculptures which represent three of their many false gods together in one statute, this does not in the least imply that they believed in some sort of a Trinity. In reality, the Christian monotheistic concept of the one and only Triune God is diametrically opposed to the pagan legends involving a triad of gods who ruled over many other gods. Concerning these pagan sculptures depicted in the Society’s brochure, Robert Bowman observes:
“Egyptian, Babylonian, Assyrian, Hindu, and Buddhist triads, as well as Platonism, are all claimed as influencing the development of the Trinity. But it is absurd to claim that all of these significantly influenced the trinitarians. Third, most of these alleged ‘influences’ where either far too early of far too late, or far too removed geographically, to have any significant influence. Artwork picturing Egyptian and Babylonian triads are reproduced, despite the fact that the art dated from about two thousand years before the Witnesses claim the Trinity originated! Other artwork depicting Hindu and Buddhist triads from the seventh and twelfth centuries are shown, despite the fact that these were done centuries after the Trinity had become the official religion of the Roman Empire! Fourth, the JW booklet points out that Athanasius was a bishop in Alexandria, Egypt, and from this fact argues that his trinitarianism reflected the influence of Egyptian triads (p.11). But this geographical coincidence is no more significant than the fact that Athanasius’s archrival, Arius, was also from Alexandria!”—Why You Should Believe in the Trinity, 1989, p. 43
As discussed earlier, when the term “person” is used in reference to the Trinity, it designates the relationship between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—not as separate Gods or as separate people as the term “person” might be misunderstood to imply—but rather, that each “person” of the Triune God has the attributes of personality (i.e., mind, will, and emotions). These illustrations of the Trinity pictured in the Watchtower’s booklet present a misconception of the doctrine of the Trinity, for they fail to take into account that while the three persons are each distinct from one another in their personalities, they are not identical to each other. One doesn’t have to possess a body of flesh and bones in order to be regarded as a person. Just as we consider angels, Satan, and his demons to be persons even though they do not have bodies of flesh and bones, this same principle is applied to the persons of the Triune God. The only exception to this principle is Jesus because He possesses a human nature in addition to His Divine nature and is therefore considered the God-man.2. Yet, seeking scholarly support for their claims, the Society once again quotes a number of sources. The following is an examination of these sources:
THE STORY OF CIVILIZATION: Part III, Caesar and Christ, by Will Durant
The Society quotes Will Durant as stating that “Christianity did not destroy paganism; it adopted it.” However, Durant is not a reputable source to consult, for he makes several assertions regarding Christianity which neither the Society nor Biblical Christians would accept. Note the following:
“It seems incredible that the Apocalypse and the Fourth Gospel should have come from the same hand. The Apocalypse is Jewish poetry, the Fourth Gospel is Greek philosophy....Just as Philo, learned in Greek speculation, had felt a need to rephrase Judaism in forms acceptable to the logic-loving Greeks, so John…sought to give a Greek philosophical tinge to the mystic Jewish doctrine that the Wisdom of God was a living being, and to the Christian doctrine that Jesus was the Messiah. Consciously or not, he continued Paul’s work of detaching Christianity from Judaism.…Now the pagan world—even the anti-Semitic world—could accept him as its own. Christianity did not destroy paganism; it adopted it.”—The Story of Civilization: Part III, Caesar and Christ, 1944, pp. 594-595
EGYPTIAN RELIGION, by Siegfried Morenz
Siegfried Morenz is another author who the Watchtower Society quotes, but neither the Society nor Biblical Christians would agree with many of the following claims Morenz makes concerning Christianity:
“Creation through God’s word A third mode of creation, again completely different from the foregoing ones, is through the word of the creator. This, too, was turned into a classical doctrine in Egypt, which centred not on Atum of Heliopolis, as the previously mentioned one did, but on Ptah of Memphis....Keeping to such rigorous interpretation of the evidence, we may go on to recall the doctrine of creation through the word, which as we know (see pp. 163-6) was one of the principal elements in the Egyptian cosmogony....Less important, but more readily comprehensible, is the influence of the Egyptian court chronicle upon the literary form of the Israelites’ chronicle account of David and Solomon....It is also found in the familiar parallels between Egyptian and Israelite wisdom literature, which in general may be regarded as a gift of Egypt.…Other passages can, however, be claimed as Egyptian in inspiration: for instance, the Egyptian (and Mesopotamian) lists of knowledge, which were the basis of the proverbs which King Solomon spoke.…In one of the few cases where a concept that figures in the New Testament has been taken to be ultimately of Egyptian origin, Jesus’s parable of Dives and Lazarus.…and how large a part was played by Greek elements (Stoic diatribes), emerged some years ago from an analysis of the association between ship and tongue in the Epistle of St James, which was originally Egyptian.…two passages in the Epistle to the Romans: the proverbial ‘coals of fire’…derived from a Late Egyptian penitential rite - and, much more significantly, the Apostle’s words on the absolute power of the Creator to confer honour and dishonour….It is also present in the notion of a ‘crown of life’, or in those of righteousness and glory; in elucidating these concepts one must draw not only upon Greek material but also upon the ‘crown of righteousness’ to which there were so many references during the last centuries of Egyptian paganism.”—Egyptian Religion, pp. 163, 251-252, 254-255
In spite of the fact that Morenz draws these parallels between pagan philosophy and Christian doctrine, he nevertheless concludes that these doctrines are taught in the Bible. Notice his specific claims about the Trinity doctrine being Biblical:
“In order to avoid any gross misunderstanding, we must at once emphasize that the substance of the Christian Trinity is of course Biblical: Father, Son and Holy Ghost.…All this entitles us to the opinion that Egypt played its part in the efforts of Christians to achieve an understanding of God and his works, which are eternal.”—Egyptian Religion, pp. 255, 257
THE PAGANISM IN OUR CHRISTIANITY, by Arthur Weigall
On pages 3, 6, and 11 of the Society’s brochure, they quote from Arthur Weigall’s book The Paganism in Our Christianity in support of their assertion that the concept of the Trinity is “entirely pagan.” Is Weigall a credible source? Note the following statements Weigall makes concerning the accuracy of the New Testament, the virgin birth, and the death and resurrection of Christ:
“No Biblical scholar of any standing to-day, whether he be a clergyman, a minister, or a layman, accepts the entire New Testament as authentic; and all admit that many errors, misunderstandings, and absurdities have crept into the story of Christ’s life and other matters.…In regard to the Virgin Birth….It seems clear, therefore, that the story was not known, or at any rate was not accepted, before A.D. 100, that is to say, a whole century after the date of the event it records.…if Joseph was not then thought to be the father of Jesus it is difficult to understand why the pedigree was given at all.…The growth of such a story may well be understood, for tales of the births of pagan gods….He had not been much hurt by being crucified.…no faith would be worth consideration which based itself merely on the apparent coming to life of a dead body.…in the end His mortal body must have died and returned to dust.”—The Paganism in Our Christianity, 1928, pp. 30-31, 42-43, 44, 94-95
As a liberal scholar who denies so many doctrines of Biblical Christianity, it is clearly evident that Weigall is not a scholar one should consult in matters pertaining to essential doctrines of the historic Christian faith.
ENCYCLOPAEDIA OF RELIGION AND ETHICS, by James Hastings
While it is true that James Hastings does state that the concept of the Trinity can be found in pagan religions, he nevertheless goes on to remark that: “Truly, if the doctrine of the Trinity appeared somewhat late in theology, it must have lived very early in devotion.”—Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, vol. 12, pp. 458-459
THE NEW SCHAFF-HERZOG ENCYCLOPEDIA OF RELIGIOUS KNOWLEDGE
Although this encyclopedia also endeavors to draw a parallel between the pagan doctrines of Plato and the teachings of Christianity, it goes on to declare that the early church fathers prior to Nicaea such as “Justin Martyr, Athenagoras, Theophilus, Irenaeus, Hippolytus, Clement of Alexandria, Origen.…”3. were also influenced by Platonic philosophy.
THE CHURCH OF THE FIRST THREE CENTURIES, by Alvan Lamson
Throughout their brochure, the Society quotes Lamson’s book endeavoring to provide support for their assertion that the doctrine of the Trinity “had its origin in a source entirely foreign from that of the Jewish and Christian Scriptures;…it grew up, and was ingrafted on Christianity, through the hands of the Platonizing Fathers.”4. A look at the title page of this book reveals that its publisher is the “British and Foreign Unitarian Association.” Concerning Unitarianism, various encyclopedias have this to say:
“Unitarianism is a religious view that was organized in institutional form in Poland, Transylvania, England, and the United States.…The separate movements had common characteristics” among these being their “rejections of the doctrines of the Trinity, the divinity of Jesus, and human corruption or total depravity.…The British and Foreign Unitarian Association, founded in 1825, was aided by the repeal of laws against nonconformity.…”5. William Ellery Channing (1780-1842), who was the “most prominent supporter of the Unitarians during this period” and whose “sermon ‘Unitarian Christianity’ (1819) was widely accepted as a good statement of their position”6. “replied that…most of the liberal ministers were Arians….”7.
“Unitarianism…denies the divinity of Christ and the doctrine of the Trinity.…Theological foundations…are found in 2nd- and 3rd-century monarchianism and in the teachings of Arius….The modern roots of Unitarianism are traced to the 16th-century Protestant Reformation, when certain liberal, radical, and rationalist reformers revived the Platonic emphasis on reason and the unity of God.”—The New Encyclopaedia Britannica 1768, 1998 (15th ed.), vol. 12, p. 137
“Unitarian Universalist believe an individual should be free to form his own religious beliefs. They hold an optimistic view of the nature of man….8. “Unitarian ministers soon began to argue that religious truth should be based on universal religious experiences, rather than on the record of historical events. In addition, these ministers believed that religious truth and inspiration could be found in traditions other than Christianity.”9.
In view of the liberal, biased nature of Unitarianism against the doctrine of the Trinity, is it any wonder that such an organization would be behind a book which promotes an alleged “late origin and gradual formation” of the doctrine of the Trinity?
OUTLINES OF THE HISTORY OF DOGMA, by Adolf Harnack
The Society cites Adolf Harnack as another authority in support of their claims. However, the Society fails to mention that Harnack was a strong liberal whose appointment as professor at Berlin from 1889-1921 “was challenged by the church because of Harnack’s doubts about the authorship of the fourth gospel and other NT books, his unorthodox interpretations of biblical miracles including the Resurrection and his denial of Christ’s institution of baptism (see his History of Dogma, 7 vols., 1894-99).”—New International Dictionary of the Christian Church, 1978, p. 452
A STATEMENT OF REASONS, by Andrews Norton
Another disreputable source the Society references is this book by Andrew Norton. The full title of his book is as follows: “A Statement of Reasons for Not Believing The Doctrine of Trinitarians Concerning the Nature of God and the Person of Christ,” published by the “Boston American Unitarian Association, 1880.” Andrew Norton was a Unitarian! Is it any wonder he wrote a book against Trinity doctrine?
Not only do the sources referenced in the Society’s brochure endeavor to draw parallels between pagan doctrine and Christian doctrine, but many of these sources are attacking the Bible as being the cause of the alleged paganism in Christianity! Since many of these liberal authors are actually attacking the Bible as being pagan in origin, one wonders how credible the Society’s claim of the alleged pagan infiltration into Christian doctrine truly is. As every honest Jehovah’s Witness would admit, it is one thing to assert that Christianity adopted paganism; it is quite another thing to say the Bible adopted paganism.
Simply because similarities between pagan gods and the Christian concept of the Trinity may be found, this is not a valid reason to conclude that the concept of the Trinity is of pagan origin. For example, in pagan legends, it was taught that a messiah-like creature named “Tammuz” was resurrected, and many pagan legends hold to the view that a flood occurred sometime in the history of mankind. Would it be legitimate to argue that the biblical teachings concerning Jesus Christ’s resurrection and Noah’s flood are of pagan origin simply because pagans taught similar accounts long ago? On the contrary (as the following illustration will demonstrate) the very fact that pagans legends hold to these concepts actually lends credence to the validity of these doctrines.
Take, for example, the existence of counterfeit money. Since no real U.S. three dollar bill exists, one will search in vain to find a counterfeit three dollar bill, for it would easily be recognized. Because the purpose of the counterfeit is to deceive people into accepting the counterfeit in place of the real thing, counterfeit bills are only designed to resemble real dollar bills. Just as this occurs in the physical realm, Satan uses this deception in the spiritual realm in order to deceive people into accepting counterfeit doctrine. Thus, the very fact that similarities between the Biblical doctrine of Noah’s flood, the Resurrection, and the Trinity are found in pagan cultures, actually aids in substantiating these doctrines as truth.
1. See Exposing Should You Believe in the Trinity?, by Angel Arellano, Jr., p. 22
2. See John 2:18-22; Luke 24:37-39; Romans 8:11; Colossians 2:9; 1 Timothy 2:5; Matthew 26:64; Acts 17:31
3. The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, vol. 9, p. 91
4. Should You Believe in the Trinity?, p. 11
5. The Encyclopedia of Religion, 1987, vol. 15, pp. 143-144
6. The World Book Encyclopedia, 1994, vol. 20, p. 42
7. The Encyclopedia of Religion, 1987, vol. 15, p. 144
8. The World Book Encyclopedia, 1968, vol. 19, p. 20
9. The World Book Encyclopedia, 1994, vol. 20, pp. 42-43