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  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: August 2012

3 - The doctrine of the Trinity: its emergence and development in the life of the Christian community


Towards the end of the previous chapter we noted that there is an ‘elemental trinitarianism’ in the New Testament. In this chapter we shall see how the understanding of God as triune developed as Christianity moved from its initial Jewish surroundings into a wider Greco-Roman culture. Throughout this journey it will be apparent that it was the religious convictions and experience of Jesus and that of the early Christian community that provided the starting point and foundation for trinitarian doctrine. Some aspects of these ‘original’ experiences of Jesus, of his Jewish antecedents, and of his disciples have been alluded to already. These include the faith of Israel in the one God who has created all, and who is continually active in history in a wise and powerful way. Such convictions also comprise the experience of the early Christian communities at Easter, where Jesus was fully acknowledged as the Son of God and Saviour of the world. The New Testament writings bear witness to the conviction that Jesus Christ, the Saviour sent from God, is himself true God, although not identical with the Father, and is present to his people only in the Holy Spirit.


Dogmatic manuals and treatises on the Trinity in the nineteenth and in the early part of the twentieth century adopted a proof-text approach to certain scriptural texts alluding to the Trinity. Today there is a greater appreciation of the liturgical nature of many scriptural texts used to support later trinitarian doctrine.

Suggested readings
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