Since the word “Trinity” doesn’t appear in the Bible, some wonder whether the early church simply invented the doctrine. The term “trinity” comes from the Latin trinitas. This term was used by the church father Tertullian (ca. A.D. 160-230) who wrote about “a trinity of one divinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” Some are troubled that the word “trinity” doesn’t appear in the Bible. But the absence of this word in no way invalidates the doctrine. Many important biblical concepts are conveyed by terms not actually contained in the Bible — for example, terms like Bible, canon, and inerrancy. Surely nothing in the text prohibits the use of extrabiblical terms to express proper meaning. Although the word Trinity doesn’t appear, Scripture clearly reveals the doctrine.
Here is the Trinity doctrine in six biblically based propositions:
- There is one, and only one, God (1 Timothy 2:5).
- The person of the Father is God (2 Peter 1:17).
- The person of the Son is God (Titus 2:13).
- The person of the Holy Spirit is God (Acts 5:3-4).
- The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are distinct and simultaneously distinguishable persons (Luke 3:22).
- The three persons (Father or God; and Son or Christ or Lord; and Holy Spirit or Spirit) are frequently listed together in a triadic pattern of unity and equality (John 14:26).
Thus, the Trinity doctrine is derived directly from the content of Scripture. Though the apostles of Jesus were Jewish monotheists who believed strictly in one God, they nevertheless recognized that two other persons (the Son and the Holy Spirit) were spoken of as God. All three persons possessed the qualities and prerogatives of deity. The apostles therefore modified traditional Jewish monotheism in light of the revelation concerning the Son (Jesus Christ) and the Holy Spirit.
For more on the doctrine of the Trinity, see my book Without a Doubt: Answering the 20 Toughest Faith Questions (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2004), chapter 5.