Friday, July 27, 2012

Did the Trinity Come from Paganism? part 3

This is a continuation of part 2.

When the Unitarians in the Watchtower society wish to prove that the Trinity comes from paganism in general, they quote, more often than any other single reference book[i] in their Should You Believe In the Trinity? the work “The Paganism in Our Christianity [which] declares: ‘The origin of the [Trinity] is entirely pagan.’”[ii]  While the lack of context makes the quotation extremely difficult to trace,[iii] one can with great diligence discover that it comes from pg. 197 of the book in question, written by one Arthur Wiegall[iv] (New York, NY:  Knickerbocker Press, 1928).  An extensive quotation of Wiegall will demonstrate to all just how credible—or rather, incredible—he is:
[T]he miraculous . . . made [Christ] God incarnate to the thinkers of the First Century;  all these marvels make Him a conventional myth to those of the Twentieth.  Many of the most erudite critics are convinced that no such person [as Jesus Christ] ever lived. . . . [The] twelve disciples [were invented from] the twelve signs of the Zodiac. . . . [The gospels are] meagre and garbled accounts . . . borrowed from paganism . . . many of the details of the life of our Lord are too widly improbable to be accepted in these sober days. . . . [M]any gods and semi-divine heroes have mothers whose names are variations of “Mary” . . . the name of our Lord’s mother may have been forgotten and a stock name substituted. . . . . The mythological origin of [the record of Jesus’ birth] is so obvious that the whole story must be abandoned. . . . [When] St. Luke says that when the child was born Mary wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger . . . [the] author was here drawing upon Greek mythology. . . . The story of the Virgin Birth . . . is derived from pagan sources. . . . The story of the forty days in the wilderness and the temptation by Satan . . . [comes from] a pagan legend. . . . the account of the Crucifixion . . . parallels . . . rites of human sacrifice as practiced by the ancients. . . . In primitive days it was the custom in many lands for a king or ruler to put his own son to death as a sacrifice to the tribal god. . . . in the primitive Passover a human victim was probably sacrificed. . . . [T]he side of Jesus [being] pierced by a lance . . . [relates to] a widespread custom [like] . . . the primitive Albanians used to sacrifice a human being to the moon-goddess by piercing his side with a spear. . . . Nobody in his senses now believes that Jesus ascended into Heaven . . . His body must anyhow have died or been cast aside. . . . such an ascension into the sky was the usual end to the mythical legends of the lives of pagan gods . . . [T]he Christian expression “washed in the blood of the Lamb” is undoubtably a reflection of . . . the rites of Mithra. . . . [T]he worshippers of Mithra practiced baptism by water. . . . There is no authentic evidence that Jesus ever intended to establish a Church . . . the Lord’s Supper has been changed . . . under Mithraic and other ancient influences. . . . The doctrine of the Atonement . . . nauseates the modern mind, and . . . is of pagan origin, being indeed the most obvious relic of heathendom in the Faith . . . it is not, of course, supported by anything known to have been said by Jesus. . . . this idea of a god dying for the benefit of mankind, and rising again, had is origin in the fact that nature seemed to die in winter and revive in spring. . . . [T]he Logos [the Greek term for “Word,” used of the Lord Jesus in John 1:1, 14; 1 John 5:7; Revelation 19:13] theory, which had been adopted by the author of the Gospel of St. John from the philosophy of Philo . . . went a long way towards establishing the identification of Jesus Christ with God . . . the idea of the Logos itself was pagan. . . . Sunday, too, was a pagan holy day . . . the Jewish Sabbath . . . is obviously derived from moon-worship. . . . Now Sunday . . . had been for long the holy day in the solar religions of Mithra . . . Christians . . . [worshipped on Sunday] by pagan custom. . . . in this Twentieth Century thoughtful men . . . [reject] the phantom crowd of savage and blood-stained old gods who have come into the Church, and, by immemorial right, have demanded the worship of habit-bound man.”[v]
Weigall is obviously an irrational, Bible-hating wacko.  He provides no documentation, no proof, nothing that even closely resembles a semblance at an argument for the claims in his book;  they are nothing but the speculations and ridiculous accusations of his feverishly anti-Christian mind.  The Watchtower quotes Weigall more than any other individual in their Should You Believe in the Trinity?—despite the fact that a quote from him on the origin of the Trinity has about equal weight with a quote from a supermarket tabloid about King Kong being sighted in Yosemite National Park or one of the Tooth Fairy opening up a dental practice in New York City.

The quotations made by Arians and Unitarians to affirm that the Trinity is derived from paganism are regularly unreliable and untrustworthy, and they are all, in any case, false.  The Scripture, which is superior to all uninspired historical evidence, manifests the Biblical origin of Trinitarianism.  The Arian and Unitarian interpretation of post-Biblical history is also unscholarly and mythological.  The idea that the Trinity is derived from paganism cannot be sustained.
Arians (and others) sometimes put together a variety of pictures of three pagan gods in a group[vi] to scare people into thinking that the Trinity comes from paganism, and sometimes manufacture or find various further quotations that allege that the Trinity was derived from various pagan religions.[vii]  However, there simply is no connection between pagans who worshipped many gods and sometimes put three of them together (as they would sometimes put two, four, or some other number of their gods together in a particular idolatrous image) and the tri-unity of the one God of the Bible.[viii]

Similarly, Unitarians and modalists may affirm that Trinitarianism was derived from Plato or Platonic philosophy.  They offer as proof for their contention extremely questionable quotations of the sort examined above, by people like Norton, Lacugna, and Weigall.  What they do not do is quote Plato.  A rather severe problem for their position is that the writings of Plato do not contain the doctrine of the Trinity.[ix]  Nor do the writings of Aristotle or other pre-Christian pagan philosophers.  Similarities of language[x] between post-Christian neo-Platonic philosophers and Christian Trinitarians are weak, and similarites of meaning are either nonexistent or very strained.  If they were to indicate anything, they would demonstrate the influence of Christian theology upon the thought of post-Christian pagan philosophy, rather than the reverse.[xi]  Furthermore, even if one were to establish genuine and clear Trinitarian testimonial from pre-Christian pagan writings—which cannot be done—it would not demonstrate that Christians took pagan ideas into their theological system when they believed in the Trinity.  The fact that the fundamentals of Trinitarian doctrine were given to Adam (Genesis 1:2, 26), recognized by righteous Gentiles in the Old Testament era (Job 19:25-27; 33:4, echoing Genesis 1:2) and believed by Israel in the Mosaic economy (Isaiah 48:16) makes the consideration that remnants of the original Trinitarian revelation might be present among those descendents of Adam that fell into paganism, or among those pagans influenced by Israel or righteous Gentiles in the Old Testament era, a definite possibility.  In this case, Trinitarian ideas present in pre-Christian, non-Jewish writings would be evidence of influence from the God of Adam and of Israel.[xii]  What cannot in any wise be established historically is that Christian Trinitarianism was simply the influx of pagan thought into theological thinking.


[i] See pgs. 3, 6, 11, Should You Believe in the Trinity?

[ii] Should You Believe In the Trinity? in the section, “How Did The Trinity Doctrine Develop?” pg. 11.  Weigall is also quoted with approval elsewhere in this Watchtower work (pgs. 3, 6).

[iii] The publisher of the book is not cited.  The page number the quote is from is not cited.  The year the book was published is not cited.  The ISBN number is not cited.  The Watchtower work which quotes the book has no bibliography.  Nothing is provided in the Watchtower composition that would enable the reader to access the book in question and discover if the author has any credibility is provided;  the most basic conventions for quoted material are neglected.  In light of the radically, ridiculously unhistorical and unscholarly nature of the book in question, a desire on the part of the Watchtower society to make the book inaccessible and so prevent readers from discovering the facts about it is understandable, though detestable.  The lack of page numbers, publishers, year published, etc. is a common factor for all works cited in this Watchtower publication.

[iv] Weigall is an individual of sufficient obscurity that his academic qualifications, or lack thereof, are nearly impossible to discover.  It is not known if this great “historian” went to college, if he dropped out of high school (as did the majority of the New World “Translation” committee), etc.

[v] Pgs. 17, 19, 20, 23-24, 50, 51, 60, 61-62, 68, 71, 85, 86, 87, 92, 105, 140, 141, 152, 155, 160, 163, 187-188, 229-230, 235-236, 277.

[vi]             cf. Should You Believe in the Trinity? pgs 2, 10

[vii]             cf. Should You Believe in the Trinity? pgs. 11-12.

[viii] Robert Morey (pgs. 488-489, The Trinity: Evidence and Issues. Iowa Falls, IA: World Bible Publishers, 1996) writes, “The Watchtower . . . ‘proves’ [its] claim [that the Trinity comes from paganism] by pictures of three idols of various pagan deities standing together as if they represent the source of the Christian concept of the Trinity.  For example, they point to Egyptian idols of Osiris, Isis, and Horus.

This argument is based on two very basic logical fallacies.  First, it commits the fallacy of equivocation in that the word ‘Trinity’ is being used with several different meanings.  The word ‘Trinity’ according to Christian theology refers to one, infinite/personal God eternally existing in three Persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  But the word ‘Trinity’ is used by the Arians to refer to any grouping of three finite gods and goddesses.  Obviously there is no logical relationship between three finite gods and the one trinue God of Christianity.
Second, the fallacy of equivocation leads to the categorical fallacy of trying to relate together concepts that have no relationship at all.  The following diagram illustrates the radical difference between the Trinity and pagan triads:
The Trinity
Pagan triads
one God
three gods & goddesses
infinite in nature
finite in nature
ignorant of some things
limited to one place
good and evil
The Watchtower’s attempt to link the Trinity to pagan triads reveals either that [it does] not understand the Trinity, or that, if [it] does, [it] is being deliberately deceptive.”

[ix] Morey (pg. 489-490, The Trinity: Evidence and Issues) writes, “The same problem arises when [Arians—specifically the Watchtower in Should You Believe in the Trinity?] claims the doctrine of the Trinity came from Plato.  They do not indicate where the Trinity can be found in the writings of Plato.  They quote from Unitarians and other anti-Trinitarians who make the same claim, but nowhere do they quote Plato.

Since we are quite familiar with Plato and have translated some of his dialogues from the original Greek, we must go on record that we have never found in Plato anything even remotely resembling the Christian doctrine of the Trinity.  Perhaps this is why Arians never give a single reference to Plato’s works to back up their claims. . . .

[T]he Watchtower . . . [has] made [the] claim many times . . . that . . . [Trinitarians] borrowed their conceipt of the Trinity from Platonism and used Plato’s Demiurge as their concept of Christ . . . What they fail to tell their readers is that Plato’s Demiurge was a finite being created by God and, thus, not equal to God.  The following diagram reveals whose Christ is patterned after the Demiurge:

The Demiurge
Two Views of Christ

not created
not eternal
not eternal
not omnipresent
not omnipresent
not omniscient
not omniscient
not omnipotent
not omnipotent
full deity
From the above chart, it is clear that it is Arianism that has patterned its view of Christ from Plato’s Demiurge.”

It is also noteworthy that many Roman Catholics (though not all—some were rabid enough to attempt to read into Plato’s works what was clearly not present, a practice followed even by some earlier writers) who adopted and promolugated much of the philosophy of Plato in the medieval and subsequent eras, and tried with all their might to Christianize the Greek philosopher, were honest enough to admit that there was no Trinity in Plato.  For example, “Marsilio Ficino, 1433–1499, one of the circle who made the court of Lorenzo the Magnificent famous, was an ordained priest, rector of two churches and canon of the cathedral of Florence. He eloquently preached the Platonic gospel to his ‘brethren in Plato,’ and translated the Orphic hymns, the Hermes Trismegistos, and some works of Plato and Plotinus, — a colossal task for that age. He believed that the divine Plotinus had first revealed the theology of the divine Plato and “the mysteries of the ancients,” and that these were consistent with Christianity. Yet he was unable to find in Plato’s writings the mystery of the Trinity” (David Schaff, The Middle Ages: From Boniface VIII, 1294, to the Protestant Reformation, 1517, Vol. 6, Chap. 8:65 in Philip Schaff’s History of the Christian Church, elec. acc.).

[x] The evident fact that the requirements of language will lead to some overlap in terminology between God’s people and paganism as believers communicate the truths about God derived from revelation should be obvious from a simple consideration of the necessities of discourse in a language common to believers and unbelievers.  The fact that a Christian who is explaining truth about the nature of God in modern America at a secular university to a philosophy major may use terminology familiar to his unsaved philosophical friend does not mean that the Christian’s view of God came from anti-God philosophy.  Christian theological works that employ a precision of logic and terminology also employed by careful non-Christian philosophical works do not thereby prove that the Christian content was adopted from that of the pagans.  Likewise, the use of a Trinitarian word such as hupostasis by both Christians and pagans is no more proof that the Christian concept came from pagan philosophy then the fact that the phrase “one God” was employed by Christians and pagan philosophy demonstrates that Christians derived their idea of the unity of God from heathenism.  One might as well conclude that a church building is an evil derived from the ungodly world because structures owned by both Christians and non-Christians follow common standards required by law in building codes.

[xi] “The Socinian and rationalistic opinion, that the church doctrine of the Trinity sprang from Platonism and Neo-Platonism is  . . . radically false. The Indian Trimurti, altogether pantheistic in spirit, is still further from the Christian Trinity. . . . [The post-Christian pagn writers] Plotinus (in Enn. V. 1) and Porphyry (in Cyril. Alex. 100 Jul.) who, however, were already unconsciously affected by Christian ideas, speak of trei√ß uJposta¿seiß but in a sense altogether different from that of the church” (Philip Schaff, Ante-Nicene Christianity, Vol. 2, Chap. 12:149 of his History of the Christian Church, elec. acc.).

[xii] The affirmation of revelatory influence upon pagan philosophy is alleged, for example, by Justin Martyr, who asserts that Plato derived his idea that there was but one God from Jews living in Alexandria, Egypt (Horatory Address to the Greeks, Chapter 20).

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