21 December 2014

Contemporary Trinitarian formulae

The only explicit references to the Trinity in the New Testament according to the KJV, Matthew 28:19 (“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost”) and 1 John 5:7b (“in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one”) are widely recognized as later interpolations. 

Regarding the first of these, several scholars and theologians have pointed out that the Doctrine of the Trinity was not formulated until third and fourth century.  Several sources demonstrate that the original baptismal formula until the fourth century was not “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” but “in the name of Jesus Christ”.  Even then Cardinal Ratzinger has admitted that this is the case.

In the case of the second, a footnote in the New International Version, in which the phrase is omitted from the body of the text, states that it exists in no manuscript earlier than the sixteenth century.  It is omitted from nearly every translation not dependent on the KJV.

The fact that these are both “piously fraudulent” interpolations does not mean the terminology they use is invalid, however.

The closest non-interpolative phrase in the New Testament whose validity as original is in little or no doubt is 2 Corinthians 13:13: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.”  Here we have three Persons but no definite statement that the three are one.  It is used as the opening greeting at the beginning of the Anaphora (or Canon of the Mass or Prayer of Consecration or Eucharistic Prayer) in all the Eastern liturgies instead of “The Lord be with you” that most Western rites use.

My purpose in highlighting the “pious fraud” inherent in these two passages is to show that there being no validly Biblical terminology for the Persons of the Trinity because the Trinity is mentioned nowhere in the Bible, and that therefore it is not sacrilegious to use other terms than the traditional but possibly out-of-date and therefore less meaningful.

Many Christians today have a strong preference for gender-neutral terms for the Persons of the Trinity over the traditional “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”. 

Almost all of these refer to the First Person as “Creator”. 

For the Second Person, various formulae use “Savior”, “Redeemer”, “Word”, even “Sustainer” to replace “Son” on general principle in the pursuit of gender-neutral deity references, though I am fairly certainly Isho bar Yosef (Jesus bar Joses) had a penis and produced androgen. 

For the Third Person, the traditional “Holy Spirit” sounds gender-neutral, but to Jews has always been femine.  When Christians became more Gentile than Jewish, they gave the Third Person a sex change, at least in pronouns.  Other more decidedly gender-neutral terms have been used to harmonize with those used for the other Persons include “Sanctifier”, “Sustainer”, “Comforter”, and “Transformer”.

Interesting that both the Second and the Third Persons of the Trinity are referred to as “the Sustainer”, though in different formulae.

My favorite of formula is “Creator, Redeemer, and Transformer”, partly because I came to it myself without realizing many Christians had been using it for fifteen or twenty years.  I like it even better because I came to it partly by way of Hinduism.

I was trying out the more traditional, to Hindus, formula for their Trinity of “Creator, Preserver, Destroyer” to see how it tasted after learning that the Hebrew word translated into English as the “Almighty” actually means “the Destroyer”, or at least derives from the same root. 

While studying this, I discovered many Hindus were now using the title “Transformer” for the Third Person of their own Trinity (more often called the “Trimurti”); i.e. “Creator, Preserver, and Transformer”, for the whole.  For Christians, “Transformer” better describes what the Third Person is to them than any of the other descriptors.

Searching through dictionaries and definitions in working on the most apt term for the Second Person, I learned that the title “Redeemer” included connotations nearly every other title substituted for “Son”: Savior, Preserver, Sustainer.

Thus, my preference for “Creator, Redeemer, and Transformer”.  For example:  “Glory be to the Creator, through the Redeemer, in the Transformer: As it was, is now, and always will be, unto aeons of aeons.”

In some ways, the terminology for the First Person in situations outside the Trinitarian formula is more problematic.  Many prayers of the Church, the Lord’s Prayer to cite the most notable example, are addressed to the First Person as “Father”.  The word “Creator” doesn’t have quite the same connotation as you’re the “Adam of your labors” speaking of or to Dr. Victor von Frankenstein.  The word “Parent” sounds too clinical, and still brings to mind “Mom and Dad”.

The only word in the English language that comes close to being adequate as a stand-n for “Father” that is gender neutral and avoids calling to mind “Mom and Dad” is the word “Progenitor”.  Its use in the valid phrase spuriously inserted into 1 John 5:7 would render that formula “Progenitor, Word, and Holy Spirit”.  For example: “In the Name of the Progenitor, and of the Word, and of the Holy Spirit” and “Progenitor, we sanctify your name”.

If “Progenitor” feels too clinical or too awkward as a term by which to address the First Person in prayer, use “Beloved”.  While this at first may seem too familiar, check out the verse Hosea 2:16.  In here, God tells that prophet that the people of Israel one day in the future will no longer call him “Baali” but rather “Ishi”.  Despite other interpretations, both terms were in fact used by wives to refer to husbands, Baali meaning husband as “my Master” and Ishi meaning (or at least having the connotation of) husband as “my Beloved”.  Thus we would get, “Beloved, we sanctify your name”.

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