baptism of christ
The Baptism of Christ (Piero della Francesca) 1450
 National Gallery, London, UK

21 When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened 22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.

                                                                                                                    Luke 3 NIV


Scripture contains neither the word Trinity, nor a formulated doctrine of the Trinity. Rather, according to Christian theology, scripture bears witness to the activity of a God who can be understood in Trinitarian terms. The doctrine did not take a definitive shape until late in the fourth century, if then. Various solutions were proposed, such as: Binitarianism (one deity in two persons, or two deities), Unitarianism (one deity in one person, like the Jewish interpretation of the Shema)  and the Muslim belief in Tawhid (the indivisible oneness concept ). The focus of this study is to locate, if possible, the source or sources of the concept of the trinity and logos and how both came into Christian theology.


 The First Council of Nicaea was convened by Emperor Constantine the Great. This synod was charged with investigation of the trouble brought about by the Arian controversy in the Greek-speaking east. To most bishops, the teachings of Arius were heretical and dangerous. In the summer of 325, the bishops of all provinces were summoned to Nicaea, modern day Isnik in Turkey.

The disputed issues centered on the natures and relationship of God (the Father) and the Son of God (Jesus). The disagreements sprang from different ideas about the Godhead and what it meant for Jesus to be God's Son. Alexander of Alexandria and Athanasius  maintained that the Son was divine in just the same sense that the Father is, coeternal with the Father, else he could not be a true Son, while Arius emphasized the supremacy and uniqueness of God the Father, meaning that the Father alone is almighty and infinite, and that therefore the Father's divinity must be greater than the Son's.

The Council declared that the Son was true God, coeternal with the Father and begotten from His same substance, arguing that such a doctrine best codified the Scriptural presentation of the Son as well as traditional Christian belief about him handed down from the Apostles. This belief was expressed by the bishops in the Creed of Nicaea. Arius refused to adhere to the creed, and  was excommunicated and exiled to Illyria. The works of Arius were  confiscated and burned.  Nevertheless, the controversy continued in various parts of the empire.


The council dealt primarily with the issue of the deity of Christ. Over a century earlier the term "Trinity" (Τριάς in Greek; trinitas in Latin) was used in the writings of Origen  (185–254) and Terellian (160–220), and a general notion of a "divine three" was common. In Nicaea, questions regarding the Holy Spirit were left largely unaddressed until after the relationship between the Father and the Son was settled around the year 362. So the doctrine in a more full-fledged form was not formulated until the Council of Constantinople in 360 AD, and a final form formulated in 381 AD, primarily crafted by Gregory of Nyssa. The records of council have almost entirely disappeared, and its proceedings are chiefly through the accounts of the ecclesiastical historians.* So the inclusion of the Trinitarian doctrine may will have been the work of Gregory of Nyssa. Thus the source of doctrine comes from some of  the Church fathers not necessarily approved by the Council.  The question arises where did they get the idea?

* In the series edited by Henry Percival, The Seven Ecumenical Councils, vol. XIV  contains the records of The Council of Constantinople in 381 AD. Here are all the references to the Logos and the Holy Ghost of the council.

1. Apollinaris: "Adopting the psychological trichotomy of Plato for which he quoted I. Thess.v.23 and Gal. v. 17, he attributed to Christ a human body  and a human soul (which man has in common with the  animal), but not a rational spirit and put in place of the latter the divine Logos. In opposition to the idea of a mere connection of the Logos with the man Jesus we wished to secure an organic unity of the two, and so a true incarnation......".  The council  goes on to refute Apollinaris, but the point is Apollinaris was drawing on Plato.

2. The Marcellians, called after Marcellus bishop of Ancyra, held that the Logos was an impersonal Divine power issuing from God and entering into Jesus then contracting when the Logos would retire from Jesus and God would be all in all. (The Marcellian views were not accepted by the church.)

3. Canon V. "In regard to the tome of the Western [Bishops], we receive those in Antioch also who  confess the unity of the Godhead of the Father, and of the Son, and the Holy Ghost."  The editors say this canon was  probably adopted at the Council of Constantinople the next year, 382."

So, from the records of the proceeding of the two Council of Constantinople, there is no conclusive proof that the Holy Ghost concept was official approved. Moreover, there is evidence that the concept of the Logos was in the thinking of Apollinaris drawn from Plato.



Page 2