Jesus christ scandalized by the dogma of the holy trinity
an all-male family?
RACHEL We continue our transmission here from Mount Tabor. In the last interview, Jesus, you didn’t seem very excited about the privilege of having two natures, one human and the other divine, in your single person.
JESUS It’s not that, Rachel. I just didn’t understand very well what you were talking about.
RACHEL Please don’t go on again about how all human beings are created in the image and likeness of God. That much we already know. But you … you called yourself the very Son of God.
JESUS I always called myself a son of man. I am a man, Rachel. A true man.
RACHEL But also a true God. You… you are God.
JESUS Stop, Rachel. I’m horrified by what you say. Only God is God.
RACHEL I think the time has come to speak clearly. I’m referring to the Most Holy Trinity. That’s what I want to talk about. That’s what our audience wants to hear about, the Most Holy Trinity.
JESUS Well, let’s talk then.
RACHEL That dogma was established at the Council of Nicea God is three persons and one nature. God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Is that the case or not?
JESUS Are you talking about three gods?
RACHEL I’m talking to you about three natures and just one person. No, no, the opposite three persons and just one nature. The thing is, these topics are complicated, you understand. I’m speaking about three divine persons.
JESUS And who are those three persons?
RACHEL Well, you are one of them.
JESUS And the other two?
RACHEL The Father and the Paraclete.
JESUS Who is the Paraclete?
RACHEL The Holy Spirit. There’s a father, a son, and a paraclete. That’s the divine family.
JESUS A family just made up of males?
RACHEL Keep the jokes for later, please. I ask you again to be serious, because this subject is crucial. This is the dogma of all dogmas.
JESUS Okay, then, tell me again who I am.
RACHEL You turn out to be the second person of the single divine nature, although, as you will recall, you have two natures in your single person. Do you get it now?
RACHEL Light of light, true God of true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father.
JESUS But Rachel, how can I be one person with two natures and also one nature with three persons?
RACHEL The solution for all that is the hypostatic union. Three who are not three, but one. And one that is not one, but two.
JESUS Believe me, I’m trying hard to follow you, but it sounds like gibberish to me. I don’t understand a thing.
RACHEL Well, that’s the way divine mysteries are.
JESUS Or maybe that’s the way human entanglements are. Because my father and my mother taught me, from the time I was boy, that God is One. And that nobody has ever seen his face.
RACHEL There are whole libraries full of books explaining the dogma of the Holy Trinity. There are triangles with the divine eye, sermons, paintings, cathedrals,… and now you come and tell us…
GIRL Hey, are you people from here?
JESUS Hello, little girl. What’s your name?
JESUS What a pretty name, like my mother’s. Come on, stay here with us. What would you like?
GIRL An ice cream!
JESUS Not an ice cream, we’re going to buy “three” ice creams. Look here, Rachel, just talk with this girl. The children are the ones who know most about God. God does not reveal himself to the wise and to the theologians.
RACHEL What about all that other stuff?
JESUS All that other stuff is not so important. Let’s go, Maryam. Take that expression off your face, Rachel. Nature is here, before our eyes. And the three persons are us you, me, … and Maryam!
RACHEL Well…, well…, then the three of us will sign off for today. Until the next time. From Mount Tabor, this is Emisoras Latinas.
ANNOUNCER Another God is Possible. Exclusive interviews with Jesus Christ in his second coming to Earth. A production of María and José Ignacio López Vigil, with the support of the Syd Forum and Christian Aid.
*More information about this polemical topic…*
Son of man and true man
Jesus called himself the “Son of man”, an expression that appears in the prophet Daniel (7,13) and in Aramaic means simply “human being”.
Jesus’ companions saw in him a true man, a passionate prophet convinced of what he was saying. Because of his compelling discourse and his revolutionary attitudes, they sometimes identified him with the long-awaited Messiah who was going to liberate the people. The basic nucleus of the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke is faithful to this tradition, which is the most primitive and authentic one about Jesus.
The last gospel, attributed to John, and the letters of Paul, which were written in a Hellenistic cultural context, transformed Jesus of Nazareth into Jesus Christ, the celestial King, the Lord (Kyrios), the Son of God. Such honorific titles provided the basis for the later formulation of dogmas which defined who Jesus was, but they did so using philosophical molds that were alien to Jewish culture. Gradually Jesus was mythified and divinized in formulations that became ever more abstract and removed from historical reality. These dogmatic formulations in the early Christian centuries provoked many debates and even bloodshed among Christians, since those deemed “heretics” were cruelly persecuted for proposing different ways of expressing the dogmas. No doubt the person who would be most scandalized by all this would be Jesus, the Jew.
The central dogma provoked wars
The Trinity is the central dogma of Catholic and Orthodox Christianity and of some Protestant denominations. It was declared a dogma of faith in the year 325 at the Council of Nicea. Both before and after this Council, attempts to formulate this dogma gave rise to innumerable heresies and schisms, and even wars. The definition of the Council of Nicea stated that the Son was “consubstantial” with the Father, a formula that generated years of controversy, until that dogma of Nicea was reaffirmed at the Council of Constantinople in the year 381.
Much later, in 1054, the Eastern Schism was provoked by debate about the “procession” of the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. The Church of Constantinople separated from that of Rome, producing what we know today as the “Orthodox” Christians, who live mostly in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. The theologians of Constantinople claimed that the Holy Spirit proceeded only from the Father, while those of Rome held that the Holy Spirit proceeded from the Father and the Son. Credo in Spiritum Sanctum qui ex Patre Filioque procedit. That little word “Filioque” (“and from the Son”), which is part of the trinitarian dogma, gave rise to a tremendous conflict, which ended up with a definitive divorce between the church of the East and that of the West: Constantinople separated from Rome. Naturally, it was not only ideology and theology that lay behind these conflicts; there were also many political interests involving dominion over vast territories.
“Explaining and clarifying” the dogma
In its treatment of the dogma of the Trinity, the Catholic Encyclopedia cites Pope Gregory the Great, who tried to explain this belief after it was defined in the Councils. He stated: Therefore, there is nothing created, nothing subject to anything else in the Trinity; there is nothing that has been added, as if something previously non-existing were later to become part of the Trinity; the Father has never been without the Son, nor the Son without the Holy Spirit; and that same Trinity is immutable and inalterable forever. As can be seen, the “explanations” bordered on the incomprehensible.
Another abstruse “explanation” has more recently been offered about the matter debated and resolved in the three Councils that followed Nicea and Constantinople, councils that were obsessive about trying to fit Jesus’ personality into the metaphysics of the epoch. This “clarification” is proposed by the Catholic theologian G. Iammarrone, who states:
Three ecumenical councils, which were convoked to settle the controversies arising among these schools, marked the stages on the way to a correct understanding of the mystery of Christ’s unity. I present here the substance of their interventions. The Council of Ephesus (431) defined the following: in Jesus Christ there is a unity of the divine and the human “according to hypostasis” (kathypostasin) and not only by the pure will, benevolence or assumption of the prosopon (this text shows that hypostasis and prosopon still do not have the same meaning).
The Council of Chalcedon (451) affirmed that in the incarnate Word the divine nature and the human nature, united by not fused, “concur” in the constitution of the single hypostasis or person (prosopon) – the two terms are now equivalent. Nevertheless, the Council did not state explicitly which hypostasis it was.
The Second Council of Constantinople (553) made it clear that the union of the two natures in Christ is achieved “according to the hypostasis” (kathypostasin) of the divine Word, or “by synthesis” (kata synthesin), so that from the moment of the incarnation there was in Jesus Christ a single hypostasis/person (subject, autos), of both the divine nature and the human nature, which remains whole and distinct from the divine in the “synthesis” or “composition”. Present in this formulation are: a) a concept of an integral, individual human nature, one that is not hypostasis/person, but is hypostasized/personified by and in the same hypostasis/divine person of the Word (an an-hypostatic human nature); and b) a concept of hypostasis/person which has subsistence as a constitutive element. This vision of the union of divinity and humanity in Christ is what has been constantly transmitted in the Church up to the present day, both in the documents of the Magisterium and in the theological Tradition.
Do that make it perfectly clear?
Other trinities in other religions
The idea of a divine trinity is present in some ancient religions. In ancient Egypt, three thousand years before Jesus, the religious tradition of Memphis spoke of Pta, the creator; Sejmet, his wife; and Nefertem, their son. The tradition of Thebes proposed for adoration Amon, the creator; Mut, his wife; and Jonsu, their son. In Egypt the family bonds among the father god Osiris, his wife Isis, and their son Horus were the theological background for the succession of the pharaohs. In Babylon and Chaldea three masculine divinities (Bel, Hea, and Anu) were adored, as well as a feminine deity, Beltis, who was virgin and mother. The primitive Hellenic trinity was formed by the sky god Uranus, the earth goddess Gaia, and the creative and procreative force, Eros. There is also a trinity in Hinduism: Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.
The ultimate origin of the dogma of the Trinity can be understood from this perspective: it is a totally patriarchal, exclusively masculine variant of the family triad archetypical of many ancient religions: father, mother, son. In Judaism there was no such triad – it was pure monotheism. In Christianity the triad reemerged, but masculinized. That is the way the Trinity has been represented for centuries in countless sculptures and paintings, starting from the famous icon of Andrei Rublev. Outstanding among the portrayals that propose “an all-male family” is the oil painting of Andrés López (1780), which is kept in the Andrés Blastein virtual museum, a website that displays master works of colonial and modern Mexican artists. Viewing the painting on the Internet turns out to be quite revealing. Often the plastic arts have represented the “third person”, called the Holy Spirit or the Paraclete (Greek for “advocate” or “comforter”), in the form of a dove, without specifying the bird’s sex.
Jesus was a man like everybody else. He believed, with passion and conviction, that all human beings are sons and daughters of God. For that reason he called himself the “son of God” and allowed others to call him that. That personal sentiment of Jesus produced a doctrine and later a dogma of faith, which requires all Christians to believe that Jesus is God in person, the second person of God’s one and only nature.
This abstract idea, poured into philosophical molds quite foreign to our present-day mentality, is usually interpreted in a way that makes Jesus a God “disguised as a man”, something similar to what the myth of Superman has offered to children and adults since 1938. This comic-book creation of Joseph Shuster and Jerry Siegel portrays a super-powerful hero, who is capable of flying and performing “miracles”, but who hides behind the mild-mannered appearance of Clark Kent, an ordinary office worker. The Vatican today is actively promoting an image of Jesus painted by the Polish nun Faustina Kowalska; it portrays Jesus with multi-colored rays shining forth from his chest, a clear visual reinforcement of the idea of Jesus as Superman.
The god of the turtles
The Greek historian Xenophon used to say, five centuries before Jesus was dogmatically defined: If turtles were to make a representation of God, they would paint him as a turtle. When we say that in God there are three “persons”, we use a concept that is completely western. In contrast, the Arabic and Chinese languages, as well as many others, have no word meaning “person”. Nevertheless, this concept is at the center of Christian dogmatics, the patrimony of a church which imagines itself to be universal and, even more pretentiously, claims that it is the only true church. This is an obvious demonstration of the highly contingent nature of the words we use to refer to God, to Reality, to Mystery — none of which can be captured by any human words.