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Biblical Trinity Vs. Catholic Trinity
Do you know the difference?

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Neither Catholics or Jehovah Witnesses understand the difference between 1st Century Biblical Trinity vs. 4th century Creedal Trinity, do you?

Click to ViewThe Catholic Trinity denies the Bible doctrine of the subordination of Christ to the Father.
Click to ViewThe Catholic Trinity speaks where the Bible was silent in explaining how God is three in one.
Click to ViewThe Catholic Trinity goes beyond the simple Bible truths of the deity of Christ and the personality of the Holy Spirit and speculates the "mechanical make-up" of God on almost an "atomic level".



When Jehovah's Witnesses attempt to prove that the trinity is not a Bible doctrine, they always focus on the Catholic trinity rather than the Biblical trinity. JW's are right! Catholic trinity is not found in the Bible, but the deity of Christ and personality of the Holy Spirit are clearly taught!




Biblical Trinity
Taught in the Bible


Catholic Trinity
Not taught in the Bible

In the Bible, we see an affirmation of the deity of Christ and the personality of the Holy Spirit combined with a mono-theistic view of God, but without any explanation as to how the whole thing fits together and works. The simple affirmation of the "three-ness of God", seen at the Baptism of Jesus and the baptism of every Christian, is the Economic Trinity.


The developed trinity or ontological trinity, is the theological explanation as to how a mono-theistic view of God can have three-ness. This ontological trinity explains how the plumbing works and goes far beyond a simple affirmation of the three-ness of the mono-theistic God as revealed in scripture. When Jehovah's Witnesses say trinity is not found in the Bible, they always refer to the ontological trinity (without knowing the difference themselves: JW's don't know the difference between Trinity and Modalism).






Ontological trinity

Trinity of the Bible


Trinity of Dogma

economic or dispensational Trinity


essential, immanent or ontological Trinity

1st Century Biblical Trinity


4th century Creedal Trinity

Elemental Trinity Doctrine


Developed Trinity doctrine




Economic Trinity: The observed activity of God in the World (that is, early Christians perceived and believed God to have directly intervened in history in the persons of the Father, Son and Spirit)


Essential Trinity: A more formal understanding of the essential nature or being of God as Triune, as presented in Creedal statements.





What Jehovah's Witnesses never understand:

The Trinity that is found in the Bible vs. the Trinity that is not found in the Bible!

For a full discussion click on the following links or see below.

Fortman, Edmund: The Triune God

Kelly, J.N.D.: Early Christian Doctrines

Hastings, James, Encyclopædia of Religion and Ethics

Eliade, Mircea, The Encyclopedia of Religion



Warning: Before you continue:

As you read the quotes below, it is essential for you to identify the "Trinity that is found in the Bible" vs. the "Trinity that is not found in the Bible"! All the Trinitarian authors below make reference to both in each statement. If you do not take the care to mentally identify the Biblical trinity vs. the Catholic trinity in each statement, you will be as hopelessly confused as Jehovah's Witnesses and other Anti-Trinitarians. If you do make mental notes as you read, your understanding of this subject will dramatically increase! We recommend you print the quotes and circle with two different coloured pens each type of trinity found in the statements.

  1. In the New Testament we do not find the doctrine of the Trinity in anything like its developed form, not even in the Pauline and Johannine theology, although ample witness is borne to the religious experience from which the doctrine springs. None the less Christ is acknowledged as the eternal Son of God and the supreme revelation of the Father, and the quickening Spirit of life is acknowledged to be derived ' from on high." And so, when the early Christians would describe their conception of God, all the three elements-God, Christ, and the Spirit-enter into the description, and the one God is found to be revealed in a threefold way. (Encyclopædia of Religion and Ethics, James Hastings, Trinity, p 458)
  2. In the immediate post New Testament period of the Apostolic Fathers no attempt was made to work out the God-Christ (Father-Son) relationship in ontological terms. By the end of the fourth century, and owing mainly to the challenge posed by various heresies, theologians went beyond the immediate testimony of the Bible and also beyond liturgical and creedal expressions of trinitarian faith to the ontological trinity of coequal persons "within" God. The shift is from function to ontology, from the "economic trinity" (Father, Son, and Spirit in relation to us) to the "immanent" or "essential Trinity" (Father, Son, and Spirit in relation to each other). It was prompted chiefly by belief in the divinity of Christ and later in the divinity of the Holy Spirit, but even earlier by the consistent worship of God in a trinitarian pattern and the practice of baptism into the threefold name of God. By the close of the fourth century the orthodox teaching was in place: God is one nature, three persons (mia ousia, treis hupostaseis). (The Encyclopedia of Religion, Mircea Eliade, Trinity, Vol 15, p53-57)
  3. "Of a doctrine of the Trinity in the strict sense there is of course no sign, although the Church's triadic formula left its mark everywhere." (Early Christian Doctrines, J.N.D. Kelly, p. 95)
  4. The doctrine of the Triune God has had an amazing history. Convinced that this doctrine is a Christian doctrine that did and could originate only from divine revelation. I start the study from the authentic record of divine revelation that is found in the sacred writings of the Old and New Testaments. What does the Old Testament tell us of God? It tells us there is one God, a wonderful God of life and love and righteousness and power and glory and mystery, who is the creator and lord of the whole universe, who is intensely concerned with the tiny people of Israel. It tells us of His Word, Wisdom. Spirit, of the Messiah He will send, of a Son of Man and a Suffering Servant to come. But it tells us nothing explicitly or by necessary implication of a Triune God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. If we take the New Testament writers together they tell us there is only one God, the creator and lord of the universe, who is the Father of Jesus. They call Jesus the Son of God, Messiah, Lord, Savior, Word, Wisdom. They assign Him the divine functions of creation, salvation, judgment. Sometimes they call Him God explicitly. They do not speak as fully and clearly of the Holy Spirit as they do of the Son, but at times they coordinate Him with the Father and the Son and put Him on a level with them as far as divinity and personality are concerned. They give us in their writings a triadic ground plan and triadic formulas. They do not speak in abstract terms of nature, substance, person, relation, circumincession, mission, but they present in their own ways the ideas that are behind these terms. They give us no formal or formulated doctrine of the Trinity, no explicit teaching that in one God there are three co-equal divine persons. But they do give us an elemental trinitarianism, the data from which such a formal doctrine of the Triune God may be formulated. To study the gradual transition from an unformulated Biblical witness to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit to a dogmatic formulation of a doctrine of the Triune God, we look first to the Eastern Church where most of this development took place. The Apostolic Fathers were witnesses to the Biblical data and the traditional faith rather than theologians, but they furnished useful insights into the lines along which the Church's unconscious theology was developing. Most of them indicated quite clearly a belief in the divinity of Christ, less clearly a belief in the distinct personality and divinity of the Holy Spirit. They gave solid evidence of a belief in three pre-existent 'beings,' but they furnished no trinitarian doctrine, no awareness of a trinitarian problem. (The Triune God, Edmund Fortman, p6)
  5. "Question of Continuity and Elemental Trinitarianism: From what has been seen thus far, the impression could arise that the Trinitarian dogma is in the last analysis a late 4th-century invention. In a sense, this is true; but it implies an extremely strict interpretation of the key words Trinitarian and dogma. Triadic Consciousness in the Primitive Revelation. The formulation "one God in three Persons" was not solidly established, certainly not fully assimilated into Christian life and its profession of faith, prior to the end of the 4th century. But it is precisely this formulation that has first claim to the title the Trinitarian dogma. Among the Apostolic Fathers, there had been nothing even remotely approaching such a mentality or perspective; among the 2d-century Apologists, little more than a focusing of the problem as that of plurality within the unique Godhead. ... From the vocabulary and grammar of the Greek original, the intention of the hagiographer to communicate singleness of essence in three distinct Persons was easily derived. ... If it is clear on one side that the dogma of the Trinity in the stricter sense of the word was a late arrival, product of 3 centuries' reflection and debate, it is just as clear on the opposite side that confession of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit-and hence an elemental Trinitarianism-went back to the period of Christian origins. (New Catholic Encyclopedia, 1965, Trinity, p299-300)
  6. THE DOGMA of the Trinity-The Trinity is the term employed to signify the central doctrine of the Christian religion-the truth that in the unity of the Godhead there are Three Persons the Father the Son, and the Holy Spirit, these three Persons being truly distinct one from another. Thus, in the words of the Athanasian Creed: "the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God, and yet there are not three Gods but one God." In this Trinity of Persons the Son is begotten of the Father by an eternal generation, and the Holy Spirit proceeds by an eternal procession from the Father and the Son'. Yet, notwithstanding this difference as to origin, the Persons are co-eternal and co-equal: all alike are uncreated and omnipotent. This the Church teaches is the revelation regarding 'God's nature which Jesus Christ, the Son of God came upon earth to deliver to the world: and which she proposes to man as the foundation of her whole dogmatic system. In Scripture there is as yet no single term by which the Three Divine Persons are denoted together. The word [tri'as] (of which the Latin trinitas is a translation) is first found in Theophilus of Antioch about A. D. 180. He speaks of "the Trinity of God [the Father], His Word and His Wisdom" ("Ad. Autol.", 11, 15, P. G., VI, 1078). The term may, of course, have been in use before his time. Shortly afterwards it appears in its Latin form of trinitas in Tertullian. ... It is manifest that a dogma so mysterious presupposes a Divine revelation. When the fact of revelation, understood in its full sense as the speech of God to man, is no longer admitted, the rejection of the doctrine follows as a necessary consequence. For this reason it has no place in the Liberal Protestantism of today. The writers of this school contend that the doctrine of the Trinity, as professed by the Church, is not contained in the New Testament, but that it was first formulated in the second century and received final approbation in the fourth, as the result of the Arian and Macedonian controversies ... In view of this assertion it is necessary to consider in some detail the evidence afforded by Holy Scripture. (The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1912, Vol. 15, p 47-49)
  7. It should be observed that there is no real cleavage or antithesis between the doctrines of the economic and the essential Trinity, and naturally so. The Tri-unity represents the effort to think out the Trinity, and so to afford it a reasonable basis. The first Christians had with St. Paul a saving experience of the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and of the love of God, and of the communion of the Holy Ghost; and the theologians of the ancient Church sought to set forth the Christian experience in logical terms of reason. In the effort they were led, inevitably, to effect an alliance between the gospel of their salvation and the speculative philosophy, and more especially the Platonism, in which they had been trained, while, in making room for the Christian gospel within the world-not altogether hospitable of the Greek philosophy, they found themselves translating their empirical knowledge of God-the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ-into a doctrine of diversity or multiplicity, as distinguished from merely abstract unity, within the divine Nature itself. In other words, in thinking out the Trinity they arrived at the Triunity. None the less the greatest and most influential of the Christian Fathers, Origen, Athanasius, Basil and the Gregories, Augustine, all acknowledged that, for all the light thrown upon it in the Biblical revelation, the divine Nature remained for them a mystery transcending reason. (Encyclopædia of Religion and Ethics, James Hastings, Trinity, p 461)
  8. "The doctrine of the Trinity did not form part of the apostles' preaching, as this is reported in the New Testament." (Encyclopedia International, Ian Henderson, University of Glasgow, 1969, page 226)
  9. "The word Trinity is not found in the Bible, and, though used by Tertullian in the last decade of the 2nd century, it did not find a place formally in the theology of the Church till the 4th century. (New Bible Dictionary, J. D. Douglas & F. F. Bruce, Trinity, p 1298)
  10. TRINITARIAN PROBLEM AS POSED TODAY This article may now return to the contemporary scene in an attempt to pinpoint problem and perspective. The Pastoral Question. There are few teachers of Trinitarian theology in Roman Catholic seminaries who have not been badgered at one time or another by the question, "But how does one preach the Trinity?" And if the question is symptomatic of confusion on the part of the students, perhaps it is no less symptomatic of similar confusion on the part of their professors. If "the Trinity" here means Trinitarian theology, the best answer would be that one does not preach it at all ... If "the Trinity" means, however, as more often it will, Trinitarian doctrine, particularly the fundamental dogma "one God in three Persons," what should be said in reply has not always been too clear. The 4th-century articulation of the triadic mystery is at least implicitly the word of God, hence part of the Christian credo. On the other hand, it is not, as already seen, directly and immediately word of God. And today, it is becoming more and more recognized that the direct and immediate word of God, the Biblical message speaking for itself, should be the heart and substance of the communication both in preaching and in catechesis. Up to a point, of course, this has always been the case. Even that famous pastor's manual, the 16th-century Catechism of the Council of Trent referred to in the introduction, had embellished its dogma-based and dogma, orientated presentation of the Trinitarian mystery with a wealth of scriptural quotation. ... take up directly and immediately the Biblical revelation and to postpone any explicitly consideration of the dogma to the very end. (New Catholic Encyclopedia, 1965, Trinity, p304)
  11. It was the custom in former times for theologians to blend their own speculations and those of others with the statement of the Bible doctrine. It is customary now to exhibit first the simple doctrine of the Bible, and afterwards, in a separate part, the speculations of the learned respecting it. (McClintock and Strong: Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature, vol x, Trinity, p 551-553)
  12. "Trinity. The trinity of God is defined by the Church as the belief that in God are three persons who subsist in one nature. The belief as so defined was reached only in the 4th and 5th centuries AD and hence is not explicitly and formally a biblical belief. The trinity of persons within the unity of nature is defined in terms of "person" and "nature" which are Gk philosophical terms; actually the terms do not appear in the Bible. The trinitarian definitions arose as the result of long controversies in which these terms and others such as "essence" and "substance" were erroneously applied to God by some theologians. ... Without an explicit formula the NT leaves no room to think that Jesus is Himself an object of the adoption which He communicates to others. He knows the Father and reveals Him. He therefore belongs to the divine level of being; and there is no question at all about the Spirit belonging to the divine level of being. What is less clear about the Spirit is His personal reality; often He is mentioned in language in which His personal reality is not explicit. (Dictionary of the Bible, John L. McKenzie, Trinity, p899)
  13. "The Trinity. The NT does not contain the developed doctrine of the Trinity. "The Bible lacks the express declaration that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are of equal essence and therefore in an equal sense God himself. ... But the NT does contain the fixed, three-part formula of 2 Cor. 13:13 (EVV 14) in which God, the Lord Jesus Christ and the Spirit are mentioned together (cf. I Cor. 12:4 ff.). The Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit occurs only in the baptismal formula in Matt. 28:19. ... Although the Spirit is distinguished from Christ and subordinated to him, it can be said in I Jn. 2:1 that Christ is the Paraclete with the Father. All this underlines the point that primitive Christianity did not have an explicit doctrine of the Trinity such as was subsequently elaborated in the creeds of the early church." (New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Brown, Colin, 1932, God, vol 2, p84, J. Schneider)
  14. In any case the orthodox doctrine in its developed form is a Trinity of essence rather than of manifestation, as having to do in the first instance with the subjective rather than the objective Being of God. And, just because these two meanings of the Trinity-the theoretical and the practical, as they might also be described-are being sharply distinguished in modern Christian thought, it might be well if the term 'Trinity' were employed to designate the Trinity of revelation or the doctrine of the threefold self-manifestation of God), and the term 'Triunity' (cf. Germ. Dreienigkeit) Adopted as the designation of the essential Trinity (or the doctrine of the tri-personal nature of God). (Encyclopædia of Religion and Ethics, James Hastings, Trinity, p 461)
  15. Clark Carlton, an Orthodox church defender, admits that as late as 325 AD, that the church placed scripture at the forefront of any theological issue. We maintain that the introduction of non-Biblical words [Homoousios] in the Arian controversies is the very area they went wrong. They went beyond what was recorded in scripture: "According to Pelikan, the Fathers of Nicea would have preferred to stay exclusively with the words of Scripture, but the very use of Scripture in the Arian controversy forced them to introduce a non-biblical word [Homoousios means of the same essence or substance.] in order to preserve the correct interpretation of Scripture." (THE WAY: What Every Protestant Should Know About the Orthodox Church, Clark Carlton, 1997, p 106)
  16. The NT does not approach the metaphysical problem of subordination, as it approaches no metaphysical problem. It offers no room for a statement of the relations of Father, Son, and Spirit which would imply that one of them is more or less properly on the divine level of being than another. (Dictionary of the Bible, John L. McKenzie, Trinity, p899)
  17. "Because the Trinity is such an important part of later Christian doctrine, it is striking that the term does not appear in the New Testament. Likewise, the developed concept of three coequal partners in the Godhead found in later creedal formulations cannot be clearly detected within the confines of the canon. Since the Christians have come to worship Jesus as a god ... Matthew 28.19 ... Matthew records a special connection between God the Father and Jesus the Son (e.g., 11.27), but he falls short of claiming that Jesus is equal with God. It is John's gospel that suggests the idea of equality between Jesus and God ... While there are other New Testament texts where God, Jesus, and the Spirit are referred to in the same passage (e.g., Jude 20-21), it is important to avoid reading the Trinity into places where it does not appear. An example is 1 Peter 1.1-2 (Oxford Companion to the Bible, Bruce M. Metzger and Michael D. Coogan, Trinity, p 782)



Steve Rudd

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