The Christian Church today celebrates Trinity Sunday. Here are some reflections on the incoherence of Trinitarianism.


In the Bible, Jesus sometimes appears explicitly to deny that he is divine. Texts include, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone (Mark 10:18), and “The son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing” (John 5:19). Similarly, Jesus is frequently depicted as having nondivine qualities, including temptation, fear, indecision, and lack of knowledge, as at Gethsemane, where he is intensely afraid, so that God sends an angel to strengthen and reassure him (Luke 22:39-49). Jesus does not know the date of the second coming (Mark 13:32).  Again and again he is portrayed as obedient to the Father, and sent by Him, “learning obedience” (Hebrews 5:8). Since such qualities conflict with what is logically known of God, the Gospel writers are here clearly presenting him as a nondivine being.

Later generations, seeking to harmonise this with the evolved doctrine of his fully divine nature, developed, on the basis of Philippians 2:5-11, the idea of kenosis, whereby God, as the second person, “emptied” Himself of aspects of His Godhead during the three decades of His existence on earth. The consequence of this was a double paradox: not only can a single entity be fully divine and fully human (ie infinite and finite simultaneously), but that same entity can disengage aspects of deity at will without becoming less divine and thereby impairing the perfection of the Incarnation or the atonement.

“God the Son” never appears in the Bible. Still, “son of God” is a title that it frequently accords to Jesus. For pagans in his time, to be a “son of God” meant that one inherited all or part of deity from a divine father; in fact, this was perhaps the notion that most characteristically united the pagan cults of the Roman Empire.  However, it is a commonplace of modern scholarship that in an Aramaic and Hebrew milieu such a phrase carried no pagan implications, but denoted angelic, rabbinic, messianic, or kingly authority. Hence “sons of God” (b’nai ha-elohim) are angels, or inspired men (Genesis 6:2; Job 1:6; Psalms 29:1). Scholars unswayed by the demands of Nicene orthodoxy largely concur that for Jews in first-century Palestine, to be a son of God in no way implied divine status. To understand it in such terms would be to violate an essential premise of Jewish monotheism, and indicates Hellenistic and Roman religious influence.

~ Dr Tim Winter, Debating Christian Theism, pp. 349-350.


Categories: Bible, Christianity, Christology, Dr Tim Winter, God, Gospels, Jesus, New Testament scholarship, Trinity

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12 replies

  1. In the Gospel of John Jesus clearly claims divinity for himself. He says it with his own mouth, clearly and unambigiously

    • There is much distance between the historical Jesus and the Jesus of the Fourth Gospel in the view of most NT scholars.

      • Marc C, bring all your verses from the Gospel of John, that explicitly and implicitly demonstrate/assert evidence for the doctrine of the Trinity.

      • Dr. Collins, I was joking. John 15:5 clearly has Jesus claim he is divine: “I am the vine; you are the branches”

      • Answer the question[s] as directed Mr Marc C.

        Which verses are explicit sources of evidence?

        Which verses are implicit sources of evidence?

      • Dr. Collins, I’m an atheist, agnostic on a good day. I don’t believe in the trinity nor that it’s explicitly mentioned in the Bible.

  2. John 15:5 is very explicit, I don’t think it’s contested by even a single scholar. Jesus says very clearly, in his own words “I am de vine; you are the branches”.

    • Not so Marc C, firstly, I don’t think even a single scholar affirms that the historical Jesus (P) actually uttered the “I am” saying in John 15:5.

      Secondly, John 15:5 merely expresses that during Jesus ministry as a Prophet, Messenger of God no one can serve God effectively until they are connected with Jesus, the Messiah by faith. During his ministry, as a Prophet of God, Jesus was the way and the truth to connect with God who produces in us a fruitful life of righteousness

      Likewise, Prophet Muhammad(P)was the way and the truth as the last and final line of Messengers to mankind:

      “O you who have believed, respond to Allah and to the Messenger when he calls you to that which gives you life. And know that Allah intervenes between a man and his heart and that to Him you will be gathered” 8:24

      “Say (O Muhammad): “If you (really) love Allah then follow me, Allah will love you and forgive you of your sins. And Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” 3:31

      • @ Omar
        I was making a joke. Eisegesis = “I see Jesus”; John 15:5: “I am the vine” = “I am divine”

  3. @Marc c
    Would you call people to truth if it opposed your own way of life?

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