Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

Trinity in the Holy Bible Pt. 5

Addressing Some Objections to the Deity of Christ

Sam Shamoun

[Part 1 , Part 22b, Part 3, 3b, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6]

We resume our rebuttal by focusing on Islam’s arguments concerning the biblical to the doctrine of the Trinity.

Comma Johanneum and the Trinity

Islam wrote an article titled, The Bible Does Not Teach The ‘Trinity’. In it he seeks to establish that there is no explicit witness to the triune nature of God, and even cites the following encyclopedia to confirm his point:

The Encyclopædia Britannica asserts:

"Neither the word Trinity nor the explicit doctrine appears in the New Testament, nor did Jesus and his followers intend to contradict the Shema in the Hebrew Scriptures: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord” (Deuteronomy 6:4)"  

Typical of other Muslim polemicists, Islam seems to have no problem in selectively citing references out of context, since this is what the encyclopedia actually says:

Neither the word Trinity nor the explicit doctrine appears in the New Testament, nor did Jesus and his followers intend to contradict the Shema in the Hebrew Scriptures: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord” (Deuteronomy 6:4). The earliest Christians, however, had to cope with the implications of the coming of Jesus Christ and of the presumed presence and power of God among them—i.e., the Holy Spirit, whose coming was connected with the celebration of the Pentecost. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were associated in such New Testament passages as the Great Commission: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19); and in the apostolic benediction: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Corinthians 13:14). Thus, the New Testament established the basis for the doctrine of the Trinity. (Encyclopaedia Britannica [online], last accessed on 2013; bold emphasis ours)

This is precisely what informed Christians assert, namely, the doctrine of the Trinity is nothing more than the early Church’s attempt of systematizing the NT teaching concerning Father, Son and Holy Spirit, no more no less, in order to safeguard the Biblical revelation from those seeking to pervert it.

Islam then claims that,

The doctrine of Trinity is a theological belief. It found its way into Christian thought and scripture was often interpreted and in one explicit example (as we will note below), interpolated, to support the concept.

Correction. The doctrine of the Trinity is a theological belief which is based upon the explicit witness of Holy Scripture concerning the nature of God and the relationship between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Islam repeats the oft-repeated and rather tiresome claim that the only explicit biblical witness to the Trinity is 1 John 5:7, a passage which even Trinitarian scholars admit is a later interpolation which was introduced into the Greek manuscript tradition.


Well known to Biblical scholars and many erudite Christians is the phrase 'Comma Johanneum'. This is a short excerpt (comma) which has been inserted into the Biblical text to support the concept of Trinity.

The Biblical New testament text in question is 1 John 5:7-8. These passages provide the only explicit reference of the doctrine of Trinity anywhere in the Bible.

[King James Version]

1 John 5:7

For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.     [2]

1 John 5:8

And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.    [3]

The highlighted text in bold black are interpolations or 'a comma'. This text does not exist in any of the older, best Greek manuscripts of the New Testament Bible. This is clearly an addition to support a theological standpoint.

The doctrine of Trinity is not taught by the Bible and remains a theological doctrine. Even the explicit reference of the Trinity in the New Testament was a late interpolation (known as the Comma Johanneum) and was not present in any ancient manuscript.

Islam’s statements raise several problems, one of which actually ends up establishing that Jesus did in fact claim to be God and consubstantial with the Father.

First, contrary to Islam’s assertions, 1 John 5:7 is not an explicit example of the Trinity since the passage is not even referring to the essential unity of the Father, Word and Holy Spirit, but rather to their unified testimony. This is brought out clearly by the immediate context:

“This is He who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not only by water, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who bears witness, because the Spirit is truth. For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness on earth: the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three agree as one. If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater; for this is the witness of God which He has testified of His Son. He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son. And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.” 1 John 5:6-13 NKJV

As the foregoing demonstrates, the passage is speaking of the testimony which God has given concerning Jesus being his unique Son, and the life that is found in his Son which one receives by believing in the Son’s name.

As such, the text of 1 John 5:7 isn’t even addressing the issue of the essence or nature of the Father, Word and Holy Spirit, but is rather focusing on their unified and unanimous testimony concerning the Person of Christ, e.g. all three Persons have borne witness that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who has come to give eternal life to all who believe in his name.

Second, there are a plethora of Biblical passages which group the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit together in contexts which point to their essential unity, such as Matthew 28:19, a text which Islam has something to say about:  

The process of baptism, which in the main is the Christian ritual of admission into Christian church, involves the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. This verse is not an explicit description of the ‘nature of God’ and there is absolutely no warrant to read this verse in this way.  It is only 'theology' that would potentially read this into this verse. (Re: Trinity in Bible)

Statements such as these indicate Islam hasn’t bothered to read the immediate context of this particular verse:

“But the eleven disciples proceeded to Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had designated. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful. And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’” Matthew 28:16-20

Jesus not only accepts worship from his disciples after his resurrection, he also claims to possess absolute sovereignty over the entire creation, i.e. “in heaven and on earth.” Christ even refers to himself as the Son who shares the one name which belongs to both the Father and the Holy Spirit, and assures his followers that he shall personally (not physically) be with all of them as they go throughout the entire world for the purpose of making disciples for their risen Savior.

Hence, Jesus was basically claiming to be the omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient Lord of all creation who is one in essence and authority with both the Father and the Holy Spirit:

“… Usually others approach Jesus. But because the disciples are kneeling on the ground in worship, he approaches them. His claim to have been given all authority in heaven as well as on earth contrasts with the Devil’s having offered to give him ‘all the kingdoms of the world and their glory’ if only he’d fall down and worship the Devil (4:8-9 [compare Daniel 7:14]). ‘Therefore’ makes this claim of universal authority the basis for the Great Commission. The passages 7:29; 9:8; 11:27; 21:23 show that Jesus has had this authority all along. But the present passage confirms that authority and lifts geographical restrictions on his exercise of it. ‘All nations’ corresponds to ‘all authority.’ No nation lies outside the sphere of Jesus’ authority, and therefore nobody is exempt from the obligations to follow his example of getting baptized (see 3:13-15 with comments) and to learn and keep his commands…

“Baptism is the rite of initiation into Jesus’ school. Baptism in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit puts a trinitarian cast on this baptism, especially in that all three are included in ‘the name,’ and thus highlights Jesus’ deity by sandwiching ‘the Son’ between ‘the Father’ and ‘the Holy Spirit.’ ‘In the name of’ indicates acceptance that God is both Jesus’ and your Father, that Jesus is his Son in an unrivaled sense, and that the Holy Spirit (not Beelzebul [12:22-28]!) empowered Jesus. As a whole, this trinitarian formula distinguishes this baptism from John’s baptism, which had to do only with repentance in view of the soon coming of the kingdom of heaven (3:1-12). ‘All things … that I’ve commanded you’ links up with ‘as many as they are’ to underline the obligation of complete obedience (compare Exodus 7:2; Deuteronomy 1:3; 30:8; Joshua 1:7; Jeremiah 1:7). ‘Behold’ underscores Jesus’ presence with the disciples wherever they go throughout the inhabited earth in fulfilling their commission (compare 24:14). He won’t be physically present with them, as he has been heretofore, but he’ll be with them in the way the Lord was with his people to help them in the past (compare 18:20; Genesis 26:24; 28:15; Exodus 3:12; Joshua 1:5, 9; Judges 6:12, 16 and so on) and in this sense will continue to be ‘Immanuel … God [is] with us’ (1:23). (So as to not call such presence into question, Matthew omits an account of Jesus’ ascension to heaven, though the return from heaven in 10:23; 16:28; 24:30; 26:64 implies an ascension.) In line with the deity of Jesus, his ‘I’ in ‘I am with you’ replaces ‘God’ in the echo of ‘God [is] with us.’ ‘All the days’ assures the disciples of Jesus’ uninterrupted presence and implies an extended period of time such as a worldwide making of disciples will take. ‘Till the consummation of the age’ assures the disciples of Jesus’ untruncated presence. They’ll need it especially throughout the time of unprecedented affliction just before the second coming (24:15-30).” (Robert H. Gundry, Commentary on the New Testament: Verse-by-Verse Explanations with a Literal Translation [Baker Academic, Grand Rapids, MI 2010], pp. 135-136; bold emphasis ours)       

In fact, according to the Holy Bible the term name often stands for the essence, characteristics and/or authority of a person, just as the following citations illustrate:

“When her days to be delivered were fulfilled, behold, there were twins in her womb. Now the first came forth red, all over like a hairy garment; and they named him Esau. Afterward his brother came forth with his hand holding on to Esau’s heel, so his name was called Jacob; and Isaac was sixty years old when she gave birth to them.” Genesis 25:24-26

“When Esau heard the words of his father, he cried out with an exceedingly great and bitter cry, and said to his father, ‘Bless me, even me also, O my father!’ And he said, ‘Your brother came deceitfully and has taken away your blessing.’ Then he said, ‘Is he not rightly named Jacob, for he has supplanted me these two times? He took away my birthright, and behold, now he has taken away my blessing.’ And he said, ‘Have you not reserved a blessing for me?’” Genesis 27:34-36

“Please do not let my lord pay attention to this worthless man, Nabal, for as his name is, so is he. Nabal is his name and folly is with him; but I your maidservant did not see the young men of my lord whom you sent.” 1 Samuel 25:25

Esau means hairy, while Jacob means supplanter, whereas Nabal means fool. As the readers can see, these names are descriptive of the character or appearance of these individuals, revealing something about their nature or physical makeup. 

Therefore, by stating that he possesses the same name which both the Father and Holy Spirit do, Christ was basically affirming that all three of these distinct Persons share the same essential nature and characteristics. As such, Matthew 28:19 is a more explicit witness to the Deity and essential co-equality of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit than 1 John 5.7. As noted Christian apologist John Gilchrist stated in his reply to the late Ahmed Deedat:

Deedat suggests that this verse is the closest approximation to what the Christians call their Holy Trinity in the encyclopedia called the BIBLE (Deedat, Is the Bible God's Word?, p. 16). If it was, or alternatively, if the whole doctrine of the Trinity was based on this one text alone, then indeed this would be a matter for very serious consideration. On the contrary any honest expositor of Biblical theology will freely admit – as all Catholics, Protestants and other Christians uniformly do - that the doctrine of the Trinity is the only doctrine of God that can be obtained from the teaching of the Bible as a whole. Indeed the following verse is a far closer approximation to and definition of the doctrine of the Trinity than the spurious verse in 1 John 5:7:

Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Matthew 28:19

Only one, singular name of the three persons is referred to. In the Bible the word "name" used in such a context refers to the nature and character of the person or place so described. So Jesus speaks of only one name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit – implying an absolute unity between them – and of only one name – implying a total similarity of character and essence. This verse is thoroughly Trinitarian in content and emphasis and therefore, as 1 John 5:7 merely endorses it, we do not see what effect the omission of this verse in modern translations has on Christian doctrine at all. Accordingly it is not worthy of any form of serious consideration. (Gilchrist, The Textual History of the Qur'an and the Bible, 4. The “Grave Defects”; bold emphasis ours)

Suffice it to say, all of this contradicts the Quran which denies that Allah has a son who shares in his name and sovereignty over the heavens and earth:

And to Allah belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth, and Allah has power over all things. S. 3:189 Hilali-Khan

And say: 'Praise belongs to God, who has not taken to Him a son, and who has not any associate in the Kingdom, nor any protector out of humbleness.' And magnify Him with repeated magnificats. S. 17:111 Arberry 

The final problem that Islam faces is that his assertion regarding 1 John 5:7 presupposes that if we were to find a text where the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are said to be one then this would provide explicit and conclusive proof for the Trinity. In light of this assumption, Islam has to admit that the following passage has Jesus identifying himself as God Almighty:

“Jesus answered them, ‘I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father’s name, these testify of Me. But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father [We] are one (ego kai ho pater hen esmen).’ The Jews picked up stones again to stone Him. Jesus answered them, ‘I showed you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning Me?’ The Jews answered Him, ‘For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God.’” John 10:25-33

Here we have Jesus claiming to be one with the Father in the context of asserting his ability to give eternal life to all his sheep and preserving them from ever perishing. Since the Greek text employs the same word for one that 1 John 5:7 uses, namely hen,

“For there are three that bear witness in heaven: the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one (kai houtoi hoi treis hen eisin).” 1 John 5:7 NKJV

This leaves Islam with no choice but to accept the fact that Christ explicitly bore witness to being essentially one with the Father, and therefore made himself out to be God, which is precisely what the Jews accused of him doing. The Jews could see that Jesus was ascribing to himself the same prerogatives and functions which the OT attributes to Yahweh alone, just as the following examples testify:  

“See now that I, I am He, And there is no god besides Me; It is I who put to death and give life. I have wounded and it is I who heal, And there is no one who can deliver from My hand.” Deuteronomy 32:39 – cf. Isaiah 43:10-13

“There is no one holy like the Lord, Indeed, there is no one besides You, Nor is there any rock like our God… The Lord kills and makes alive; He brings down to Sheol and raises up.” 1 Samuel 2:2, 6

“Come, let us worship and bow down, Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. For He is our God, And we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand. Today, if you would hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, As in the day of Massah in the wilderness,” Psalm 95:6-8

With that said, it is time now to move on to the final part of our rebuttal.