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The Origin of the Trinity: From Paganism to Constantine. part 1.

March 12, 2018 Comparative Religion 1

the origin of the Trinity from paganism to Constantine part 2

THE ORIGIN OF THE TRINITY: FROM PAGANISM TO CONSTANTINE Part 1

The Rabbi ‘s deep voice echoes through the dusk, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God is one Lord’.{De 6:4} What a far cry that is from Judaism’s offspring, Christianity, and its belief in the Trinity. While the majority of the Christian world considers the concept of the Trinity vital to Christianity, many historians and Bible scholars agree that the Trinity of Christianity owes more to Greek philosophy and pagan polytheism than to the monotheism of the Jew and the Jewish Jesus.

The search for the origins of the Trinity begins with the earliest writings of man. Records of early Mesopotamian and Mediterranean civilizations show polytheistic religions, though many scholars assert that earliest man believed in one god. The 19th century scholar and Protestant minister, Alexander Hislop, devotes several chapters of his book The Two Babylons to showing how this original belief in one god was replaced by the triads of paganism which were eventually absorbed into Catholic Church dogmas. A more recent Egyptologist, Erick Hornung, refutes the original monotheism of Egypt: ‘[Monotheism is] a phenomenon restricted to the wisdom texts,’ which were written between 2600 and 2530 BC (50-51); but there is no question that ancient man believed in ‘one infinite and Almighty Creator, supreme over all’ (Hislop 14); and in a multitude of gods at a later point. Nor is there any doubt that the most common grouping of gods was a triad.1
 
Most of ancient theology is lost under the sands of time. However, archaeological expeditions in ancient Mesopotamia have uncovered the fascinating culture of the Sumerians, which flourished over 4,000 years ago. Though Sumeria was overthrown first by Assyria, and then by Babylon, its gods lived on in the cultures of those who conquered. The historian S. H. Hooke tells in detail of the ancient Sumerian trinity: Anu was the primary god of heaven, the ‘Father’, and the ‘King of the Gods’; Enlil, the ‘wind-god’ was the god of the earth, and a creator god; and Enki was the god of waters and the ‘lord of wisdom’(15-18). The historian, H. W. F. Saggs, explains that the Babylonian triad consisted of ‘three gods of roughly equal rank… whose inter-relationship is of the essence of their natures.

However, Hislop furthers the comparison, ‘In the unity of that one, Only God of the Babylonians there were three persons, and to symbolize that doctrine of the Trinity, they employed… the equilateral triangle, just as it is well known the Romish Church does at this day.

Egypt’s history is similar to Sumeria’s in antiquity. In his Egyptian Myths, George Hart, lecturer for the British Museum and professor of ancient Egyptian heiroglyphics at the University of London, shows how Egypt also believed in a ‘transcendental, above creation, and preexisting’ one, the god Amun. Amun was really three gods in one. Re was his face, Ptah his body, and Amun his hidden identity. The well-known historian Will Durant concurs that Ra, Amon, and Ptah were ‘combined as three embodiments or aspects of one supreme and triune deity’ (Oriental Heritage 201). Additionally, a hymn to Amun written in the 14th century BC defines the Egyptian trinity: ‘All Gods are three: Amun, Re, Ptah; they have no equal. His name is hidden as Amun, he is Re… before [men], and his body is Ptah’ (Hornung 219).

However, Durant submits that ‘from Egypt came the ideas of a divine trinity…’ (Caesar 595). Dr. Gordon Laing, retired Dean of the Humanities Department at the University of Chicago, agrees that ‘the worship of the Egyptian triad Isis, Serapis, and the child Horus’ probably accustomed the early church theologians to the idea of a triune God, and was influential ‘in the formulation of the doctrine of the Trinity as set forth in the Nicaean and Athanasian creeds’ (128-129).

These were not the only trinities early Christians were exposed to. The historical lecturer, Jesse Benedict Carter, tells us of the Etruscans. As they slowly passed from Babylon through Greece and went on to Rome (16-19), they brought with them their trinity of Tinia, Uni, and Menerva. This trinity was a ‘new idea to the Romans,’ and yet it became so ‘typical of Rome’ that it quickly spread throughout Italy (26). Even the names of the Roman trinity: Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva, reflect the ancestry. That Christianity was not ashamed to borrow from pagan culture is amply shown by Durant: ‘Christianity did not destroy paganism; it adopted it’ (Caesar 595).

By Cher-El L. Hagensick

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