I have started what will almost certainly be a long thread on where the idea of the Trinity came from within the Christian tradition. In plotting out the thread I saw right away that the very BIG issue is not really about the “three” (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) but about the “two”: God and Christ. This was the matter Christians debated for centuries, with the Spirit being (by far) a less central figure. The very major problem early Christians confronted was that they were monotheists who believed in only one God but they also thought Jesus was God. And they did not think that he was the same being as his Father. So God was God and Christ was God but there was only one God. How can that be? Answering that question will eventually get you to the doctrine of the Trinity.
To explain it I will need to go into some length on the issue of Jewish monotheism, and what it meant (especially in a world where everyone else was a polytheist), and then explain the origin of the idea (among monotheists!) that Jesus too was God.
That is the topic of my book How Jesus Became God, parts of which will be more relevant for this thread than others. When I was thinking this morning about how to approach the issue for the blog, I opened up my book to the chapter where I start discussing the issue (Christ is God; God is God; there is one God) and re-read the anecdote that I began with. I had rather forgotten I had written that bit. And now that I reread it, I thought it might be a helpful way to begin here as well. Here ‘tis. Among other things it shows how you (I) can miss something obvious staring you in the face.
When I first started my teaching career in the mid 1980s I was offered an adjunct position at Rutgers University. My teaching load was three courses a semester. The tenured faculty there taught three courses as well, and were, of course, considered full time. But since I was only an adjunct, my three courses were considered part time. As a part time faculty member, I was not entitled to a decent salary or benefits. To make ends meet, I worked other jobs, including one at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton.
There was a long-term project underway there called…
This is a post where I describe how, after years of study, I first came to realize what it might *mean* for ancient Christians to call Jesus God. Wanna see? If you’re not a member of the blog, join up. Nothing to lose, lots to gain, and your membership fee goes entirely to help those in need.