“Ask a Priest: Where Does the Bible Affirm the Trinity?”

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Q: Where is the Trinity mentioned in the Bible? I have been reading up on it, and Emperor Theodosius was said to have been the one who introduced and enforced it in Christianity and anyone who didn’t believe it was tortured and/or killed. Could you send me Scripture verses affirming the existence of the Trinity? Thanks so much. – R.K.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: You might want to be careful about what you are reading. The Trinity is the core mystery of the Christian faith, and for someone to say that it was an idea “introduced and enforced” by an emperor is simply false.

Scripture makes numerous implicit references to the Trinity. Four quick examples might suffice:

— “On coming up out of the water he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased'” (Mark 1:10-11). The Spirit is the Holy Spirit, descending in a kind of anointing on Jesus, and the phrase “my beloved Son” implies a Father speaking (God the Father).

— “The Father and I are one” (John 10:30). If you read the next few verses, you will see how the Jews understood Jesus to be making himself equal to God. Which implies that the Jews recognize “Father” in this case to mean God.

— “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). Notice the singular (“name”) and the threesome “the Father … the Son … the holy Spirit.”

— “But Peter said, ‘Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart so that you lied to the holy Spirit and retained part of the price of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain yours? And when it was sold, was it not still under your control? Why did you contrive this deed? You have lied not to human beings, but to God’” (Acts 5:3-4). Notice that Peter says Ananias is lying to the Holy Spirit, then he mentions lying to God. That means the Holy Spirit is God.

When these and other references to the Father and the Holy Spirit are put together, the pattern of a trinitarian God emerges.

The word Trinity, of course, doesn’t appear in Scripture. It took the Church a while to figure out the right language to explain how Jesus, the Holy Spirit and the Father can all be God, while God is one.

Tertullian (died 220) is credited as the first one to use the word Trinity to describe the triune God. He was simply putting a label on a mystery; he wasn’t inventing the idea of the Trinity.

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I hope some of this helps.

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