Studies in Christian Essentials

By Harry E. Jessop


Chapter 2


The Nature of the Godhead

Having satisfied ourselves as to the reality of God, the question immediately arises as to how much knowledge we may gain concerning the Being whose existence we have sought to prove.

That we may fully comprehend Him is of course impossible, for that which comprehends must of necessity be greater than that which is comprehended; hence our limitation. Yet while we may not comprehend the divine essence, it is ours to consider the divine attributes, that is, insofar as God has been pleased to reveal himself to men.

According to the dictionary definition, an attribute is "that which is considered as belonging to, inherent in, or characteristic of;" hence the attributes of God are the qualities or perfections of His nature.

Attributes must have their ground in essential being. Qualities are neither possible nor thinkable as separate facts, unrelated to anything. In man the body is more than its properties and the mind more than its faculties. So also God is more than His attributes. Reason tells us that there cannot be an attribute without a Being to whom that attribute belongs. The Being and the attributes are inseparable; without them we could not know Him as God. Yet for the purpose of discussion we must make the separation; only so is a classification possible.

By being is meant that which has real substantive existence. It is impossible to think of thoughts and feelings unless there is a self-something, or better, someone who feels and thinks. An attribute, or quality, requires a subject answering in kind to its own distinctive quality. The attributes are not mere names for human conceptions of God; they are qualities objectively distinguishable from the divine essence and from each other, and yet belonging to an underlying Personality who necessarily furnishes their ground of unity. The attributes manifest the divine Person, and the Person is revealed through the attributes. Apart from the attributes the Person is unknowable and therefore unknown.

There are various methods of determining what attributes belong to the divine Being and these attributes have been variously classified. On the one hand some preclude all necessity of classification by their emphasis on attributes as human conceptions or phases under which we may consider the divine Being, while on the other hand some intricate methods have been devised. It will best serve our present purpose to recognize the oft-used twofold division which sets forth the divine attributes as natural and moral, and divides them as follows:

1. Natural Attributes

The natural attributes are seen as those which have to do with the divine existence as an infinite rational Spirit. They are generally set forth as follows:

a. God is eternal and self-existent. Some would separate the eternity and self-existence of God, recording them as different attributes, but in reality they stand together. He is self-caused, self- sustaining, and therefore eternal, "I AM," "The everlasting God." Exod. 3:14; Gen. 21:33; Isa. 40:28; Rom. 16:26. See also I Tim. 1:17; Rev. 4:8; Deut. 33:27; Ps. 90:2.

He is described by our Lord Jesus as "the Father" who "hath life in himself" (John 5:26).

All other intelligences are created, caused, endowed, and sustained by Him. If every other being and every other thing should be instantly dissolved, He would remain forever the same.

b. God is essentially one. Being self-existent, He is consequently self-sufficient. He has no rival; He needs no ally; and contains all His perfections within himself. Deut. 4:35, 39; 6:4; II Sam. 7:22; I Kings 8:60; II Kings 19:19; I Chron. 17:20; Ps. 86:10; Isa. 43:10; 45:22; Mark 12:29, 32; John 17:3; I Cor. 8:4; Eph. 4:6; I Tim. 2:5; Jas. 2:19.
c. God is immutable. Within His essential nature He knows no change. His attitudes may vary to meet conditions as they change, as for instance Jonah 3:10; but in God himself there can be no change; this is the ground of confidence for His trusting people. Ps. 33:11; 102:27; Isa. 46:10; 54:10; Mal. 3:6; Jas. 1:7.
d. God is omnipotent. Being the one eternal First Cause, He has all power, and there is none to stay His hand. In testimony to this, scripture references are legion; here are a few: Gen. 1:1; 2:1-4; 17:1; 18:14; Exod. 20:11; II Kings 19:15; Neh. 9:6; Job 26:7-14; 42:2; Ps. 19:1; 33:6, 9; 104:1-6; 136:1-9; Isa. 37:16; 40:25-26; 42:5; Jer. 10:12; 32:17, 27; Amos 4:13; Matt. 19:26; Acts 14:15; 17: 24; Rom. 1:20; I Cor. 8:6; Col. 1:16; Rev. 4:11; 19:6.

When we say God is omnipotent and therefore can do anything, we must limit our thinking to the bounds of His goodness and wisdom. God cannot do anything that will harm the weakest of His creatures. He cannot do anything that will interfere with His justice toward all men.

e. God is omniscient. All things for all time -- past, present, and future--are known to Him; hence He is able to plan the best for His trusting people without any fear of embarrassment. Further, He knows every thought in the mind of every man. I Kings 8:39; I Chron. 28:9; Job 31:4; 34:21-22; Ps. 11:4; 94:9-11; 139:1-6; Prov. 15:3; Isa. 40:28; 46:9-10; Jer. 32:19; Dan. 2:20-22; Heb. 4:13; I John 3:20.
f. God is omnipresent. By omnipresence we mean, of course, that God is everywhere, and everywhere all the time. There is no place at any time where He is not. Among other scriptures proving this are the following: I Kings 8:27; Job 28:24; Ps. 33:13-14; 139:7-12; Jer. 23: 23-24; Amos 9:2-3; Acts 17:27-28.

While present everywhere in the wide and general sense, it is also true that there are times and places of His manifested presence. There are also modes and degrees in which the manifested presence differs. Consider by contrast the following: "But will God indeed dwell on the earth?" (I Kings 8:27) "Into heaven ... in hell ... in the uttermost parts of the sea . . ." -- in each place, definitely yet differently, "thou art there" (Ps. 139:8-9).

2. Moral Attributes

The moral attributes have to do with the character of God as a moral Being. They may be stated thus:

a. God is immaculately holy. Strictly speaking, this is more than an attribute. Holiness is foundational in God; it is His very nature. The word, as applied to Him in the Scriptures, has a twofold indication, having to do first with the fact of His moral purity, as for example, Ps. 145:17; the second having to do with His majestic presence, as in Isaiah 6:3.

Among other scripture passages the following may be regarded as representative: Exod. 15:11; Ps. 99:9; I Pet. 1:16; Rev. 4:8.

b. God is absolutely good. By goodness here is to be understood that quality which loves to manifest itself in benevolence, mercy, and grace. Out of His goodness must, of necessity, proceed a natural beneficence toward all His creation. Exod. 34:6; Num. 14:18; Ps. 25:7-8; 119:68; 145:8-9; Nah. 1:7; Matt. 19:17; I John 4:8.
c. God is infinitely just. Holiness and goodness in God can be fully realized only as balanced by righteousness and justice. His nature can admit of no compromise. He cannot do less than right. He must be just to all. Exod. 34:7; Num. 14:18; Deut. 32:4; Ps. 11:7; 89:14; 97:1-2; 145:17; Isa. 28:17; Jer. 32:19; Zeph. 3:5; Acts 17:31; I Pet. 1:17.
d. God is altogether wise. Numerous scripture passages declare this, among which are: Job 5:8-12; 37:1-24; Ps. 33:8-11; 104:24; Prov. 3:19, 20; Isa. 40:12-15; Jer. 10:12-13; Dan. 2:20-22; Rom. 11:33; I Cor. 1:24; Eph. 1:8; 3:9-11.

This marvelous wisdom is manifest in creation, redemption, and in His providential dealings with men. How good it is to feel that under every circumstance God knows what is best! He never makes a mistake.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never-failing skill,
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sovereign will.

e. He is unalterably faithful. Under all circumstances God is faithful and true. His people have found it so through all generations. I Cor. 1:9; 10:13; I Thess. 5:24; I John 1:9; and many other scriptures.


Simple though it may seem, make sure you are able to explain what you mean when you speak of an attribute. Be sure of your scripture basis for the attributes. In your wider reading, take up the attributes in their fuller communications as found in the more advanced theological works.


  1. All attributes must have their ground in essential being. What do you understand by this?

  2. Into what two main divisions do the attributes naturally fall?

  3. What is a natural attribute?

  4. Name the natural attributes.

  5. Explain each natural attribute you have named.

  6. What is a moral attribute?

  7. Name the moral attributes.

  8. Explain each moral attribute you have named.


The word trinity is nowhere to be found in the Bible. This acknowledged fact has become a favorite thrust by the opponents of the doctrine, and quite frequently has been hurled at the unsophisticated believer with a tone of scornful superiority which would seem to indicate that, such being the case, the deathblow to the doctrine had been irrevocably struck and the last possible word had been said.

Yet the proof that a word is non-Biblical by no means indicates that the doctrine for which it stands is unscriptural. Various terms could be enumerated which have become current coinage within the Church of God, yet whose origin is to be found not in Bible language but rather in Biblical suggestiveness; thus they have passed into general usage.

The word trinity is a coined expression, adopted during the second century to express with convenient brevity what was believed to be a Bible truth. Its Latin form, trinitas, derived from the adjective trinus, means threefold, or three in one.

The substance of the doctrine is this: In the entire and undivided unity of the divine nature there is a trinity of substances, co-substantial, coequal, and coeternal; the one divine nature existing under the personal distinction of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Such a conception utterly baffles our understanding. On the surface it appears to be contradictory; it has no human analogy and consequently we have no basis of comparison.

While the subject has its acknowledged difficulties, there is a danger of making and multiplying them. Therefore in approaching it we shall be helped if we keep one thing definitely in mind, namely, in our approach to God we must expect to find the inscrutable, as to both His nature and His operations.

The essence and nature of God are wholly beyond human knowledge; all we can ever know is what He has condescended to reveal. If God is infinitely greater than man, there must of necessity be things about Him which man can never comprehend. There are, however, some things concerning himself which He has revealed; these stand waiting for our reception in His Word.

1. The Teaching Of The Old Testament

a. While the Old Testament is staunch in its emphasis on the unity of God, it declares also a distinct plurality. This is indicated in the divine names so frequently used. Two names are prominent in the Old Testament when speaking of Deity: Jehovah -- translated "Lord" and always printed in small capitals, standing for divine unity; and Elohim always translated by the word "God," standing for divine plurality.

It is also indicated in the evident recognition of more than one Person in the Godhead. While the Bible uniformly speaks of one God and ascribes all divine essence and action to Him, it does it in such a manner as to indicate that more than one Person must be predicated. Take, for example, the following:

1. The creation story. "And God [Elohim, plural] said, Let us [plural] make man in our [plural] image, and after our (plural) likeness" (Gen. 1:26).

2. The high priestly benediction (Num. 6:24-26). Here the threefold use of the name Jehovah is held by many to give at least a hint of the triune nature of the Being bearing the singular name.

3. The phraseology of Messiah's commission as worded by Isaiah. "And now the Lord God, and his spirit, hath sent me" (Isaiah 48:16).

4. The prophetic utterance of Zechariah (Zech. 12:10). There, one Person seems to be promising another Person to enable men to look on a Third Person.

5. Then there are passages which speak as plainly of the Son and the Spirit as of the Father.

a. Concerning the Son: see Ps. 2:7, 12; Zech. 13:7. In the first passage the word Son is distinctly used, while in the second a personage is named whom Jehovah calls "my fellow" or "My Equal." This Person is to be smitten by the sword which Jehovah calls to awaken. In the light of the gospel record such a passage is surely self-interpretative.

b. Concerning the Spirit: see Gen. 1:2; 6:3; Ps. 139:7; Isa. 40:13; 48:16.

Nor must we overlook that peculiar phenomenon known as the theophanies the appearance of God to man in human or angelic form. These appearances are found in connection with: Abraham: Gen. 12:7; 17:1; 18:1; 22:11-18; 26:2-4. Hagar: Gen. 16:7-12. Jacob: Gen. 32:24-32; 35:9.Moses: Exod. 3:3-6. Israel as a nation: Exod. 33:2; 23:20-23.

c. The Old Testament further joins the plurality with the unity so as to predicate a trinity. In many passages the singular name Jehovah and the plural name Elohim are united with the evident purpose of expressing the dual truth concerning the divine nature, and this double name is usually assumed when addressing mankind. Example: "The Lord God," Gen. 2:4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 15, 16, 18, 19, 21, 22; Deut. 6:3; "The Lord thy God," Exod. 20:2, 5; Deut. 6:5; "The Lord our God," Deut. 6:4; "God the LORD," Isa. 42:5; "The Lord their God," Hos. 1:7. Here is unity joined with plurality indicating trinity.

There are other outstanding evidences which a more comprehensive work would need to develop but space here will not allow.

2. The Teaching Of The New Testament

As we begin to turn the leaves of the New Testament, it becomes immediately apparent that the revelation which in earlier days was expressed more simply has now more fully developed and we stand in the full blaze of revealed truth.

The New Testament recognizes three divine Persons, each of whom is regarded as being equally God.

a. The Father is God. See John 4:23; 6:27; I Pet. 1:2. He is called "God the Father" and is recognized as the rightful object of man's worship.

b. The Son is God. See John 1:1-3; 20:28; Rom. 9:5; Titus 2:13; Heb. 1:8; I John 5:20.

  1. Old Testament descriptions of God are applied to Him. Isa. 6:1; John 12:41; Ps. 68:18; Eph. 4:7-8.

  2. The attributes of God are ascribed to Him. Life -- John 1:4; 14:6. Self-existence -- John 5:26; Heb. 7:16. Immutability -- Heb. 13:8. Truth -- John 14:6; Rev. 3:7. Love I John 3:16. Holiness -- Luke l:35; Heb. 7:26. Eternity -- John 1:1; 17:5; Eph. 1:4.

  3. The works of God are accredited to Him. Creation -- John 1:3; I Cor. 8:6; Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:10. Upholding power -- Col. 1:17; Heb. 1:3. Raising the dead -- John 5:27-29. Judging the word -- Matt. 25:31-36; John 5:27-29. Remitting sins -- Mark 2:5-7; Acts 2:38.

  4. Worship and honor due only to God are received by Him. John 5:23; 20:28; Acts 7:59; 9:10; I Cor. 11:24, 25; Phil. 2:9-11; II Tim. 4:18; II Pet. 3:18; Heb. 13:21; Rev. 5:12-14.

  5. Equality with God is expressly claimed for Him. By himself -- John 5:18. By His apostles -- John 1:1; Acts 20:28; Phil. 2:6.

Christian experience corroborates all that is said both by Him and about Him.

c. The Holy Spirit is God.

  1. The name of God is applied to Him. Acts 5:3-4; I Cor. 3:16; 6:19; 12:6-9.

  2. The attributes of God are ascribed to Him. Life Rom. 8:2. Truth -- John 16:13. Love --Rom. 15:30. Holiness -- Eph. 4:30; Rom. 1:4. Eternity -- Heb. 9:14. Omnipotence -- Ps. 139:7; Omniscience -- I Cor. 12:11.

  3. The works of God are accredited to Him. Creation Gen. 1:2. Casting out demons Matt. 12:28. Convicting of sin John 16:8. Regeneration John 3:8. Resurrection Rom. 8:11; I Cor. 15:45.

  4. Honors due only to God are received by Him. I Cor. 3:16.

  5. Association and equality with God are acknowledged concerning Him. In the baptismal formula Matt. 28:19. In the apostolic benedictions II Cor. 13:14; I Pet. 1:2.

These three Persons, though distinct in personality and office, are essentially and eternally one. This is seen in the baptismal formula. "Baptizing them in the name [singular] of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost [plural]" (Matt. 28:19). The singular name indicates an undivided unity! The plurality of Persons indicates a distinction of tri-personality. The union of the three Persons under the one name indicates a oneness of essence and distinct equality. This is further seen in the apostolic formula of blessing (II Cor. 13:14). It is also seen in the apostolic salutation (Rev. 1:4-5). It is seen in the adoration and worship in heaven (Rev. 4:8). Compare Isaiah 6. On the basis of all this, the doctrine of the Trinity has been framed.


The Bible predicates a Trinity. One church at least would deny this doctrine. What church is it? State the position of these people as far as you are able to learn it; then marshal your arguments in answer to it.


  1. The word trinity is not to be found in the Bible. Then what is our authority for using it?

  2. Show the teaching of the Old Testament concerning the Trinity.

  3. Show the teaching of the New Testament concerning the, Trinity.


We now take up the conclusions reached in view of these scriptural facts. When we say conclusions reached, the fact of hard thinking and possible controversy immediately suggests itself, and that is exactly what we find. Having recognized this truth as revealed in the Scriptures, it then fell to the leaders within the Church to formulate some theory and to work out its implications. The history of this outworking is interesting to trace, as to both its formulated creeds and its outcrop of errors. Like most other doctrinal statements, the necessity for its formulation was literally thrust upon the Church. Tendencies pantheistic, polytheistic, and gnostic were increasingly asserting themselves, until it became evident that the only method of self-preservation was a clear definition. It will help us therefore in our thinking if we briefly consider, first, some of the errors with regard to the Trinity which the Early Church was called to meet, and then the authorized doctrinal statement which the Church was led to formulate.

1. Some Errors Which The Early Church Met

Each of these errors has its own degree of interest, but as all are in one way or another bound up with the question of the deity of Christ, we shall simply name them and touch them lightly, leaving the fuller discussion until we come to the subject of the person of Christ. In the main we may state the error groups as four.

a. The error of tritheism. This was first advocated by John Ascusnage, a philosopher of Syria. The peculiar emphasis of this group was a denial concerning the unity of the Persons in the Trinity, insisting that the Godhead consisted of three Beings distinct in essence as well as in person. In other words, there were three Gods.
b. The error of Sabellianism. This phase of teaching takes its name from Sabellius, an African bishop of the third century, and may be briefly stated. In the divine nature there is no distinction of Persons, and the terms Father, Son, and Spirit represent the divine Being under different aspects or relations; just as a man may be called father, son, and brother by different people and yet continue to be one and the same individual all the time, there being no change except in relationship. These three Persons, as they are otherwise called, are said to be mere developments or revelations to His creatures in time, of what otherwise would be an eternally concealed Godhead. Hence God as related to creation is Father; God as related to redemption is Son; God as related to the Church is the Holy Spirit. The Trinity, thus interpreted by Sabellius, is not immanent but economic; a Trinity of forms, modes, manifestations, but not an essential and eternal Trinity, deeply rooted in the divine nature.
c. The error of subordinationism. This group taught -- to sum it up in a sentence -gradation of Persons, the Son being inferior to the Father, and the Spirit inferior to the Son.
d. The error of Arianism. This teaching derives its name from Arius, a presbyter of Alexandria, and was condemned by the Council of Nicea (A.D. 325). The teaching may be epitomized as follows: The Godhead consists of one eternal Person, who, in the beginning, created a super-angelic being, His only begotten Son, by whom also He made the worlds; and that the Holy Ghost was the first and greatest creature which the Son created.

Arianism denies both to the Son and to the Holy Spirit all consubstantialty and co-eternity with the Father and consequently all that constitutes peculiar and supreme deity. Christ is said to be called God because He is next in rank to God and endowed by God with power to create.

The followers of Arius have differed as to the precise rank and claims of Christ. Some have held the worship of Christ to be obligatory. Others, including the later Unitarians, have realized the impropriety of such a position, insisting that if the Son is to be worshipped, then He must be recognized as God in all the qualities of His being; but if He is not God in the same essence as the Father, then to worship Him is to render to a creature what is due only to the Creator.

2. The Authorized Doctrinal Statement Of The Church

At length an agreement of thought was reached and registered, the doctrine of the Trinity being a magnificent attempt to state the facts of revealed truth in such a manner as to avoid these various errors. The difficulty will be immediately apparent as we recognize:

a. We cannot say that God is three in the same sense that He is one. The threefoldness is not three Persons who may be viewed as one, but one inseparable unity which is three. Moreover, this threefoldness has to do with more than offices or qualities; it is inherent in the very constitution of the Godhead, and is as vital to it as thought to the brain, life to the spirit, moisture to the dew.
b. Neither can we rely upon any human figure to illustrate this. Numerous illustrations have been used, for example: (a) The "trinity" within our humanity -- spirit, soul, and body. (b) The fact of light, which, when passed through the prism, divides itself into component rays. (c) The combination in water, snow, and ice.

We might go on and multiply these so-called illustrations, but if we would be frank to admit the truth, they are windows that let in very little light. We may as well be honest in our thinking and face up to the matter fairly and squarely. The doctrine of the Trinity has no adequate human illustration, for the simple reason that it has no earthly comparison. We are facing here a revealed truth which is humanly inscrutable and to the unaided mental faculties, however keen, absolutely unintelligible. No one can explain it. Philosophers are utterly baffled by it; but to the spiritually illumined child of God it is a glorious truth, held, not because mentally understood, but because divinely revealed.

Thus we come to the ecclesiastical formulation -- the doctrine on the ground of the truth revealed.

In what Dr. Charles Augustus Briggs calls "Fundamental Symbolics" there are three great creeds. The word creed is derived from the Latin word credo, which simply means, "I believe." These creeds officially express the faith of the Church at the time of their making. Since that time numerous waves of thought have come and gone, but those early creeds have stood as bulwarks of the faith, which the thinking of the centuries has not been able to swamp. Notice carefully the development in the expression of the doctrine as we pass from one creed to another.

The Apostles' Creed. The name which this creed bears is not to be regarded as indicating its authorship. Indeed it would be difficult to say how it came to be so captioned, unless it be to indicate that it is to be regarded as containing a statement of what the apostles taught. It is thought to have originated in the second century and to have reached its final form about A.D. 700, and may, in substance at any rate, be regarded as the earliest creed extant.

The creed as we now have it is as follows, and while the phraseology is perhaps a little more concise than in the earlier days, it may be taken to be substantially the same in its doctrinal expression:

I believe: In God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth:

And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord; Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; He descended into hell; the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty; From thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

It will be seen immediately that in this creed no formal mention of the Trinity is made. The word itself is entirely absent, yet the truth is there, and in no unmistakable manner the original framers of the creed declared their belief in: (a) "God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth"; (b) "Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord"; (c) "The Holy Ghost."

Thus this earliest of all creeds, which is virtually a simple extension of the New Testament baptismal formula, places together these elements of the Godhead on an apparently equal footing, and appears to attribute personality and deity to all.

The Nicene Creed. This document, originally prepared by the Council of Nicaea (A.D. 325), approved by the Council of Constantinople (A.D. 381), and finally adopted by the Council of Chalcedon (A.D. 451), becomes more definite in its statement concerning the Trinity, although even yet there is no formal use of the actual word. It defines the eternal generation of the Son, "Very God of very God . . . being of one substance with the Father;" and the eternal procession of the Spirit, "Giver of Life, who proceedeth from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified," thus placing the three distinct Persons in one unified position in the Godhead and striking fatal blows at tritheism, Sabellianism, subordinationism and Arianism.

The Nicene Creed reads as follows:

We believe (I believe)

In one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible:

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, the only begotten (that is, of the substance of the Father), God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made (both in heaven and earth); Who for us men, and for our salvation came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man; And was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate and suffered and was buried; And He rose again on the third day according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven: And sitteth on the right hand of the Father; And is coming with glory, to judge both the quick and the dead; Whose kingdom shall have no end;

And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord, and Giver of Life, Who proceedeth from the Father and the Son and with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, Who spake by the prophets:

And I believe in one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church:

And I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.

Thus we see a distinct expansion so far as clearness of expression is concerned, but the full expression concerning the doctrine was yet to come.

The Athanasian Creed. The title "Athanasian Creed" is not to be regarded as fixing Athanasius for its author but rather as expressing his doctrine, just as the Apostles' Creed is to be regarded as expressing the doctrine of the apostles. Its origin has about it the air of mystery and several theories have been propounded, but for our present purpose this need not seriously concern us. It is regarded by scholars as a document of the fifth century and decidedly Augustinian. Our purpose for here calling attention to it is the statement concerning the Trinity which by this time had come to be expressed.

The Catholic faith is this:

That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; Neither confounding the Persons: nor dividing the substance (essence). For there is the Person of the Father; another of the Son: and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one: the glory equal, the majesty coeternal. Such as the Father is, such is the Son: and such is the Holy Ghost. The Father uncreate (uncreated): The Son uncreate (uncreated); and the Holy Ghost uncreate (uncreated). The Father incomprehensible (unlimited): the Son incomprehensible (unlimited): and the Holy Ghost incomprehensible (unlimited or infinite). The Father eternal: the Son eternal: and the Holy Ghost eternal. And yet they are not three eternals: but one eternal.

As also there are not three uncreated, nor three incomprehensible (infinite): but one uncreated and one incomprehensible (infinite). So likewise the Father is Almighty: the Son Almighty: and the Holy Ghost Almighty.

And yet they are not three Gods: but one God. So likewise the Father is Lord: the Son Lord: and the Holy Ghost Lord. And yet not three Lords: but one Lord.

For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge every Person by Himself to be God and Lord,

So are we forbidden by the Catholic religion to say, There be three Gods, or three Lords.

The Father is made of none; neither created, nor begotten.

The Son is of the Father alone: not made, nor created; but begotten.

The Holy Ghost is of the Father and of the Son: neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding.

So there is one Father, not three Fathers: one Son, not three Sons: One Holy Ghost, not three Holy Ghosts.

And in this Trinity none is afore, or after another: none is greater, or less than another (there is nothing before or after: nothing greater or less). But the whole three Persons are coeternal, and coequal. So that in all things, as aforesaid: the Unity in Trinity, and the Trinity in Unity, is to be worshipped.


The Early Church found itself in a perplexing controversy concerning this doctrine. Be sure you are able to name each of the error groups; to explain the points of divergence; and to correct the teaching where wrong.


  1. What were the circumstances which led to the formulation of the doctrine of the Trinity?

  2. What were the difficulties accentuating this problem?

  3. How did the Church meet this situation?