A response to

Abuse of McKenzie's dictionary entry on the Trinity

"Trinitarian scholars admit it!" does al-Kadhi title one of the sections in attack on this doctrine. "It" being the claim that the Trinity is a later concoction, and hence not Biblical. However, as so often, he distorts his quotations. He presents:

"the trinity of God is defined by the Church as the belief that in God are three persons who subsist in one nature. That 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 Dictionary of the Bible, John L. McKenzie, S.J., p. 899

However, McKenzie does not say that the Trinity is not a doctrine derived from the Bible as Al-Kadhi would have us imply from this quotation. He only states that this terminology was the result of a process of reflection and discussion. The concept is Biblical, the language is that of philosophy.

After the above statement, McKenzie continues in his entry on the Trinity (pp. 899-900):

The trinity of persons within the unity of nature is defined in terms of "persons" 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. The ultimate affirmation of trinity of persons and unity of nature was declared by the Church to be the only correct way in which these terms could be used.

The elements of the trinity of persons within the unity of nature in the Bible appear in the use of the terms Father*, Son*, and Spirit*. The personal reality of the Spirit emerged more slowly than the personal reality of the Father and the Son, which are personal terms. On the application of the name of Spirit to the Son in the Pauline writings cf SPIRIT. The unity of nature does not appear as a problem in the Bible, and indeed could only arise when a philosophical investigation of the term nature as applied to God was begun. In the NT the Father is "the God" (Gk ho theos), and Jesus is "the Son of God" (ho hyios tou theou). The Spirit is "the spirit of the God" or "the holy spirit," in this conetxt a synonymous term. Deity is conceived not in the Gk term of nature but rather on the level of being, "the holy"; between this level and the level of "flesh*" there is an impassable gulf. Impassable, that is, by man; it is bridged by Jesus, the Son, who renders it possible for men to be adopted sons. Without an explicit formula the NT leaves no room to think that Jesus is himself the object of 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. This distinction between God and flesh IS THE NT BASIS FOR THE AFFIRMATION OF THE UNITY OF NATURE; the very identification of the Father with "the God" shows that the NT writers intend to distinguish the Son and the Spirit from the Father. The NT does not approach the metaphyiscal problem of subordination, as it approaches no metaphysical problem. It offers no room for a statement of the relations of the Father, Son, and Spirit WHICH WOULD IMPLY THAT ONE OF THEM IS MORE OR LESS PROPERLY ON THE DIVINE LEVEL OF BEING THAN ANOTHER. In Jewish thought of the time the son and spirit are angels; it does not take the trouble explicitly to deny it. At the same time, it is necessary to recall that in Catholic belief the trinity of persons within the unity of nature is a mystery which ultimately escapes understanding; and in no respect is it more mysterious than in the relations of the persons to each other. "Son" and "Spirit" do not represent perfect identity, and are not intended to express it; the distinction of persons is not merely numerical but reposes upon a mysterious personality or character in each one which is unknown in its ultimate reality. The Church has declared that any statement of this distinction which reduces the divinity of any of the persons is a false statement; equally false would be a statement which would deny their personal distinction. The notions of Father, Son, and Spirit are revealed that we may know God better; and the theologians should explore these ideas.

The OT does not contain suggestions or foreshadowing of the trinity of persons. What it does contain ARE THE WORDS WHICH THE NT EMPLOYS TO EXPRESS THE TRINITY OF PERSONS SUCH AS FATHER, SON, WORD, SPIRIT, ETC. A study of these word shows us how the revelation of God in the NT advances beyond the revelation of God in the OT. The same study of these words and their background is the best way to arrive at an understanding of the distinction of persons as it is stated in the NT.

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