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Trinity of God & the Holy Quran’s critical view about it-Part 2

Trinity of God, Emerging and evolution of Trinity belief and the Holy Quran’s critical view about it-Part 2

part 1

Critical attitude of the Holy Quran about Trinity

The Holy Quran has not used the word “Trinity” and it hasn’t explicitly mentioned three persons of Trinity together. But many verses have direct and indirect linking to this teaching and its intellectual and philosophical foundations.

The Holy Quran has clearly mentioned the phrasal concept of “Trinity” twice and has made an explicit rejection and criticism about this concept. In these verses, in addition to introduce Trinity as a blasphemous and exaggerated idea, the backgrounds of trinity origination are mentioned too. (4:171; 5:73-75)

In some other verses, while offering monotheistic theology which is different from the New Testament, principles and basic concepts of the Trinity like child having of God, divinity, being begotten son of God and the sameness of God and Christ have been strongly denied.

In addition to explicit rejection of the mentioned concepts and principles, the Holy Quran emphasized on humanity and prophethood of Jesus (PBUH) and that Jesus and Archangels including the Holy Spirit never refused servitude of God and it has confirmed that Jesus never invited people to serve him and his mother as a God. [1]

Description of multiple viewpoints about Trinity along with the reporting of beliefs of some Christian denominations, such as Nestorianism and Jacobites [2] and also studying the backgrounds of Trinity origination, especially with emphasizing on getting influenced of Roman, Egyptian, Greek and Indian beliefs and mythology [3] and its developments, are the subjects that sometimes has come extendedly in interpretation sources of these verses.

  1. a) Criticism of the Trinity basics: The Holy Quran has criticized one of the main fundamentals of Trinity, the divinity of Jesus (PBUH) and being the child of God in many ways.

To explain, examples like unusual creation of Jesus Christ (PBUH) following the breath of God and without a father, his resurrection after his crucifixion and death and his miracles like resurrecting the dead are from the reasons of believing in Christ divinity and being the child of God. The Quran challenges these principles and the background of the origination of Christ divinity belief basically. Among these the followings can be noted:

  1. Christ as a creature: Quran has clarified that Jesus is a creature and calls his creation like the creation of Adam (PBUH): If non-ordinary creation (without parent) is the reason of the divinity, the same thing should be thought About Adam (PBUH) while Christianity doesn’t believe that Adam is divine and son of God (3:59). [4]
  1. Human characteristics: Some other verses have mentioned the characteristics, needs and disabilities of Jesus (PBUH) more clearly. In These verses, in addition to provide accurate definition of the divinity meaning, a human character of Jesus is shown that is never compatible with his divinity.

Examples of these characteristics are explicit rejection of any dignity beyond the “prophet hood”, affirmation of Jesus and his mother’s eating food and lack of any ownership of the profits and losses of people. [5]

“Christ the son of Mary was no more than a messenger; many were the messengers that passed away before him. His mother was a woman of truth. They had both to eat their (daily) food. See how Allah doth make His signs clear to them; yet see in what ways they are deluded away from the truth!” “Say: “Will ye worship, besides Allah, something which hath no power either to harm or benefit you? But Allah, He it is that heareth and knoweth all things.”” (5:75-76)

  1. Inability against God: Quran clarifies that if God wants to destroy Christ and his mother and all the inhabitants of the earth, no one can affect the strength and the will of God and prevent it:

In blasphemy indeed are those that say that Allah is Christ the son of Mary. Say: “Who then hath the least power against Allah, if His will were to destroy Christ the son of Mary, his mother, and all every – one that is on the earth? For to Allah belongeth the dominion of the heavens and the earth, and all that is between. He createth what He pleaseth. For Allah hath power over all things.” (5:17)

By these explanations, the above verse strongly rejects the sameness of Jesus and God idea. [6]

  1. Doing the Miracle by the permission of God: The Quran states that all the miracles of Jesus, including resurrecting the dead were carried out with the permission and power of God:

And (appoint him) a messenger to the Children of Israel, (with this message): I have come to you, with a Sign from your Lord, in that I make for you out of clay, as it were, the figure of a bird, and breathe into it, and it becomes a bird by Allah’s leave: And I heal those born blind, and the lepers, and I quicken the dead, by Allah’s leave; and I declare to you what ye eat, and what ye store in your houses. Surely therein is a Sign for you if ye did believe. (3:49; 5:110)

Accordingly, he never did miracles with his inherent strength and not only this can’t be the reason of his divinity, but also it’s a sign of his obedience and loyalty to God and that he was a God’s messenger.

  1. Monotheistic invitation of Christ: The belief that divinity of Christ is rooted in his teachings and speech has been rejected in various forms in The Holy Quran. Quran clarifies this by saying that Jesus, like other messengers, prevented people from polytheism and warned them of its horrible consequences while inviting them to monotheism (5:116-117; 3:51; 4:172).

In the Holy Quran’s view, basically a chosen man as a messenger and someone who has the scripture and wisdom from God, never has claimed divinity and never has invited people to polytheism and Blasphemy (3:79-80). That’s true because their divine education, guidance and character don’t let them do this. [7]

  1. Rejection of the Christian doctrine of salvation: The Holy Quran denies the death and the crucifixion of Christ (4:157) and it also denies the basic Christian teaching of the original sin with the meaning of sinfulness of human nature (2:37-39; 20:122). It rejects sacrificing of someone for the others (2: 252; 53: 38-39; 40: 33) as well as salvation.

Normally by criticizing these concepts and principles, the incarnation and Trinity have also been challenged and criticized basically. [8]

  1. b) Trinity is blasphemous: In response to humiliating and mockery behavior of Jews and the Christians to Islam and Muslims and the tendency of problematic people to them, on one hand The Holy Quran prohibits believers of being their friends and on the other hand it talks and criticizes some of their deviant beliefs (5:51-72) like Trinity and its conceptual basis while reporting some of their blasphemous and hypocoristic behaviors:

“They do blaspheme who say: Allah is one of three in a Trinity: for there is no god except One Allah. If they desist not from their word (of blasphemy), verily a grievous penalty will befall the blasphemers among them.” (5:73).

In this verse, without mentioning other persons of the Trinity, the ones who know Allah as one of the three divine personalities is frankly named “infidel” and the possibility of having more than one God is  refused emphatically and it is confirmed that if they don’t desist, there will be painfully punished for their unbelievers.

To explain “اِنَّ اللّهَ ثالِثُ ثَلـثَة / Allah is one of three in a Trinity”, Commentators like Mujaahid and Saddi, considered Jesus and Mary as two other persons of Trinity referring to 5:116: “And when Allah said: (prophet) Jesus, son of Mary, did you ever say to the people: take me and my mother for two gods, other than Allah?”  [9]

Christians believe that this version of Trinity is wrong and different from the Trinity they believe in and hence animadvert on Quran.

Without considering the idea of the Trinity, verse 116 rejects the divinity of Jesus and his mother and clarifies that they never ask people to worship them. On the other hand, based on some reports about Christianity history, believing in divinity of Mary has been existed among some Christian sects and groups.

In contrast to the above interpretation of “ثالث ثلاثه / Allah is one of three in a Trinity”, most commentators consider the meaning of the mentioned sentence to be “Allah is one of three hypostases” by noting the common belief of Christians about Trinity (belief in three hypostases which have the same substance) [10] and they say that those three are respectively: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. [11]

It seems that according to the indefiniteness of the word ««ثلاثه the verse denies any form of Trinity that “الله/Allah” comes along with two other characters regardless of their identity. Two other characters can be Mary and Jesus, Jesus and the Holy Spirit or any other two hypothetical characters.

Basically the verse doesn’t seek to identify the other two characters and it doesn’t want to reject Christian belief about God dignity in comparison to the other Trinity characters. But it criticizes the basics of this belief that makes Allah one of the three characters of Trinity. By the way, the expression «ثالِثُ ثلاثة» means “one of three” not “the third of three”.

Not only this interpretation is consistent with Christian common belief that states the Father (Allah) has the first dignity and above the Son and Holy Spirit (the first of three), but also it talks about the high precision of Quran terms. Note that, in Arabic a subject name is made of the numbers between two to ten and is added to the source number to show particularity of possessed (ثالث) relative to the possessor of it (ثلاثه) [12]. The phrase «ثانِی اثنَین»  (9: 40) is  another example of this expression in the Quran.

So it is not correct to claim that Quran sayings about the dignity of God, the Father, relative to the other characters of Trinity is contrary to common belief of Christianity.

After explicit denial of Trinity, Quran talks about monotheistic theology: “there is no god except One Allah” (5:73). This part of this verse has a special combination of negative and exceptive particles that completely denies the existence of more than one God by using this grammar. Accordingly, some believes that the verse denies any multiplicity of objective and subjective essence of God. [13]

In the next step, Quran warns the Trinity believers of painful punishment. There is no common opinion among commentators about the secret of using ««لَـیَمَسَّنَّ الَّذینَ کَفَروا مِنهُم (5:73) instead of«لیمسنهم»  and as results showing a discrimination between the infidels. Commentators such as Jabbaei and Zojjaj believe that this phrase indicates two things: one is to threaten and warn those who insists on Trinity belief and the other is to say that repentant won’t get punished. [14]

People like Al-Tabari, Al-Tusi and Tabarsi have said that using this phrase is to include the believers of “sameness of Christ and God” (mentioned in the previous verse) in addition to Trinity believers. [15]

Allameh Tabataba’i refers it to a group of Christians who made religious disagreements by rejecting monotheism and signs of God. But the populace who is incapable of understanding the doctrine of the Trinity and only repeats it as religious belief, won’t be punished in spite of being infidel. [16]

After threatening, Quran encourages them to repent and ask forgiveness and inform them that God is forgiving and merciful: Why turn they not to Allah, and seek His forgiveness? For Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful. (5:74)

After considering Trinity as a blasphemous idea and threatening unbelievers, The Holy Quran renounces divinity of Jesus and criticizes Trinity by offering God’s vision about Christ character.

Accordingly, it calls Jesus “son of Mary” and a messenger like other messengers before him who doesn’t have any higher dignity than prophethood and ratiocinate the impossibility of Jesus and his mother divinity by pointing to their food eating:

“Christ the son of Mary was no more than a messenger; many were the messengers that passed away before him. His mother was a woman of truth. They had both to eat their (daily) food. See how Allah doth make His signs clear to them; yet see in what ways they are deluded away from the truth!” (5:75)

Eating, more than any other feature, can imply the need, corporeal and material being of a man because it inevitably brings features such as hunger, satiety, thirst, thirst quenching, digestion, absorption, disposal and having the gastrointestinal tract, flesh, bone, … and certainly, a person with this material and physical properties can never be God. [17]

One notable point in this kind of argument is that in the Gospels there are many reports about the birth of Jesus from Mary and His eating and drinking and other human characteristics. [18]

God calls it surprising that despite this clear argument about invalidity of Christ divinity, Trinity believers still insist on this belief and don’t accept the truth [19]:

 “See how Allah doth make His signs clear to them; yet see in what ways they are deluded away from the truth!” (5:75)

  1. c) Trinity is exaggerated: The Holy Quran criticizes another fundamental concept of Trinity that says “Jesus is the Son of God” by forbidding Christians from exaggerating in religion and false sayings about God and it also prevents them from believing in three Gods while providing the correct definition of unity and oneness of God and the character of Jesus (4: 171).

Commentators, considers that this exaggeration  refers to Christians belief about Christ divinity ,being the son of God  and God having wife.[20] The holy Quran calls this belief wrong and interdicts that.

To explain Jesus character and denial of his divinity and being the Son of God, the holy Quran relies on concepts that prove that Jesus is human and creature and it denies anything beyond that. On one hand, it denies the concept of “Jesus being Son of God” and his divinity by calling him “son of Mary”; because being “son of Mary” makes him to pass fetal period, birth and growing on mother’s lap  like any other human being.[21]

On the other hand, to express the relation of Christ to God and His creation condition, Quran calls him God’s messenger , the Word of God sent to Mary and a spirit from God and it prevents Christians  from believing in the Trinity while  inviting  them to have true belief and faith  about God and his messengers.

According to the Quran, despite expressing the birth of Jesus as miracle, nothing is attributed to him beyond God’s servitude. This implication is linked with two concepts in the Quran,”spirit” and “word” (4: 171).

Accordingly, Jesus birthday happened in this way that God sent one of his angels, which he calls him “our spirit” (19:17), to give Mary good news of a child who is a “Word” of God (3:45). He was born of a virgin mother with the inspiration of the divine spirit and by saying the word “Be/کن”. (21:91, 66:12, 3:47, 2:117, 19:35)

Using “word” and “spirit” for Jesus in the Quran never refers to the second and third hypostasis (Jesus and Holy Spirit) therefore, it does not support the doctrine of the Trinity. These two phrases which are mentioned in 4:171 precisely comes in the context of denying the Trinity and exaggeration about Jesus (PBUH).

Allameh Tabataba’i considers that the use of “Word” in Quran refers to some objective phenomena such as Jesus (PBUH) and a group of God’s sayings which have no invalidity and changes like certain fate cases. [22]

Despite this general meaning, specific use of “Word” for Jesus is because of his creation with the word “کن” (3:59) in an extraordinary way without intermediation of sperm.[23] Accordingly using the phrase “Word” for Jesus (PBUH) in Quran (4:71) is never the same as Christian concept of the Logos as divine, real and independent being which is an intermediate between God and the material world and embodied in Jesus.[24]

The phrase “روح منه/a spirit proceeding from Him” (4: 171) is also contrary to the opinion of some Christians, who wrongly considers preposition “من” in the meaning of “some/بعض” while  it doesn’t mean that “Jesus is a part of God and his son “.[25] With some disagreements, commentators think that “/روح spirit” means something with a perfect purity, blowing of the breath and Gabriel and considers “منه” as a matter of formality.[26] Based on this meaning and his chosen meaning of “Word”, Allameh Tabataba’i believes that “spirit/روح” is Jesus.[27]

After denying the Trinity, Allah is introduced as the only God: “Allah is only one God” (4:171). According to this verse, any tendency to multiplicity in essence of “Allah”, including the belief in the three hypostasis is denied basically. [28]

In this verse, Child having of God has been argued and is denied basically:

“Glory be to Him: (far exalted is He) above having a son. To Him belong all things in the heavens and on earth. And enough is Allah as a Disposer of affairs” (4:171). It is written in the commentaries of this verse that the divinity is incompatible with being Father, having children and sameness to other creatures and essentially reproduction for the survival of generation is a reflection of some needs and requirements.

While God is absolute needless and whatever is on the earth and sky, including Jesus and his mother, belongs to him and are in need of him.[29] He is able to devise and supervise all the universe and is not in need of a partner or assistant [30]: “And enough is Allah as a Disposer of affairs.” (4:171)

At the end of this statement, referring to the fact that Christ and the Archangels including the Holy Spirit, never refuse to be the servant of God because of their knowledge to the consequence, their divinity is totally denied whether in the form of God’s child or any other form and it basically criticizes Trinity:

“Christ disdaineth nor to serve and worship Allah, nor do the angels, those nearest (to Allah): those who disdain His worship and are arrogant,-He will gather them all together unto Himself to (answer)” (4:172).

Christ’s obedience and servitude to God, which is also been reported in the Gospels, is not compatible with his divinity. [31]

Discussion of three hypostases is reflected in most of the commentaries of these two main verses (4: 171 and 5: 73).

Some commentators consider the three hypostases, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, as the attributes of existence, life and science [32] and others refer them to the essence, Word (and science) and life of God and talked about the interpretation of Christian belief about combination of Word of “God” with Jesus and thus being embodied in him or the alliance of his spirit with God. [33]

By pointing out that what Christians describe as attributes in explanation of hypostases shows that hypostases are in fact essence not attributes, some commentators consider Trinity doctrine against logic because of combining essence with attributes. [34]

Presented examples for explanation of the Trinity and to show its compatibility with monotheism have also been criticized by commentators. Unity of hypostases while being three is simulated to an oil lamp that its three components (oil, cotton and fire) and the oil lamp are one. Or it is like the sun that is one while having three components (mass, light and heat).

In the criticism of the first allegory they said that the unity of oil lamp is nominal but not real. In the criticism of the second allegory they considered the unity of sun in its essence (mass), but its multiplicity is Accident philosophy (light and heat), whereas, any combination of essence and Accident philosophy is impossible for God and is incompatible with the unity of God. [35]

Conclusion

Based on the Trinity belief, God is a triple truth and Father, Son and Holy Spirit all have divinity. Emphasizing on the unity of God while having triad essence makes this belief paradoxical and difficult to understand and accept and ultimately has made it a matter which is beyond human understanding. Historical study of Trinity shows that many factors have involved in its emergence, evolution and its various explanations.

The Holy Quran considers Trinity as a blasphemous, exaggerated, imported and constructed belief which is contrary to the monotheistic teachings of Jesus (PBUH) and says that Trinity believers deserve divine punishment. Based on Quran theology and Christology, Fundamentals and concepts of Trinitarian theology like God having children, Christ’s divinity, being God’s begotten son, the Christian doctrine of salvation and the sameness of God and Christ are facing serious challenges and basic problems.

The End

References

1- Quran 2:116; 4:171-172; 5:17,72; 6:101; 9:30

2- Tafsir al-Tabari (Jāmiʿ al-bayān), vol4, page 422

3- Sayyid Qutb, Fi Zilal al-Qur’an (In the Shade of the Qur’an), vol2, page 815-816, 864-865; al-Tahrir wa al-Tanwir (‘The Verification and Enlightenment’), vol4, page 54-57; Tafsir al-Mizan, Allameh  Tabataba’i, vol3, page 319-320.

4- Tafsir al-Mizan, Allameh  Tabataba’I, vol3, page 212

5- Al-Tibyan Fi Adab Hamalat Al-Quran, Vol3, Page 605, 607; Al-Zamakhshari, Al-Kashshaaf (“The Revealer”), Vol1, Page 665; Tafsir Al-Kabir, Fakhr Al-Din Al-Razi, Vol 12, Page 61

6- Tafsir al-Mizan, Allameh Tabataba’I, vol5, page 247; Sayyid Qutb ,Fi Zilal al-Qur’an (In the Shade of the Qur’an),vol2,page 866

7-  Tafsir al-Tabari (Jāmiʿ al-bayān),vol4,page 423; Tafsir al-Kabir, Fakhr al-Din al-Razi,vol 12 ,page 60; ;Al-Zamakhshari, Al-Kashshaaf (“the Revealer”),vol 1 ,page 593-594

8- Tafsir al-Tabari (Jāmiʿ al-bayān), vol4,page 422; al-Tahrir wa al-Tanwir (‘The Verification and Enlightenment’),vol 6,page 54; Al-Jami’ li Ahkam al-Qur’an(Tafsir al-Qurtubi),vol6,page 23

9- al-tibyan fi adab hamalat al-quran,vol 3 ,page 603; Tafsir al-Kabir, Fakhr al-Din al-Razi,vol 12 ,page 60

10- al-Tahrir wa al-Tanwir (‘The Verification and Enlightenment’),vol 6 ,page 282

11- al-tibyan fi adab hamalat al-quran,vol 3 ,page 603; Tafsir al-Kabir, Fakhr al-Din al-Razi,vol 12 ,page 60; Tafsir al-Mizan, Allameh  Tabataba’i,vol6, page 71

12- al-tibyan fi adab hamalat al-quran,vol 3 ,page 603; Majma‘ al-Bayan,Tabarsi,vol 3 ,page 353; Tafsir al maraghi , vol 2 , page 167

13- Tafsir al-Tabari (Jāmiʿ al-bayān),vol4,page 422; al-tibyan fi adab hamalat al-quran,vol 3 ,page 603; ; Majma‘ al-Bayan,Tabarsi,vol 3 ,page 353

14- Tafsir al-Mizan, Allameh  Tabataba’i,vol6, page 72

15- Tafsir al-Tabari (Jāmiʿ al-bayān),vol 6,page 424; Al-Zamakhshari ,Al-Kashshaaf (“the Revealer”),vol 1 ,page 665; Tafsir al-Mizan, Allameh  Tabataba’i,vol3, page 289

16- Bible Matthew 1:18,25;4:2;25:35-36;26:18,23-29

17- Al-Zamakhshari , Al-Kashshaaf (“the Revealer”),vol 1,page 665; Tafsir al-Mizan, Allameh  Tabataba’i,vol6, page 73

18- al-tibyan fi adab hamalat al-quran,vol 3 ,page 399; Al-Zamakhshari , Al-Kashshaaf (“the Revealer”),vol 1,page 593;

19- Tafsir al-Mizan, Allameh  Tabataba’i,vol 5, page 149; Al-Zamakhshari , Al-Kashshaaf (“the Revealer”),vol 1,page 594;

20- Tafsir al-Mizan, Allameh  Tabataba’i,vol 7, page 329

21- Majma‘ al-Bayan,Tabarsi,vol 3 ,page 222; Tafsir al-Kabir, Fakhr al-Din al-Razi,vol 14 ,page 221; Tafsir al-Mizan, Allameh  Tabataba’i,vol 5, page 149

22- Bible John 1:1-5,14

23- Tafsir Nemooneh, Naser Makarem Shirazi,Vol 1,page 431

24- Maʻālim al-tanzīl (Tafsīr al-Baghawī) ,vol 1,page 502 ; Zād al-masīr fī ʿilm at-tafsīr , Ibn al-Ǧauzī ,vol  2,page 226

25- Tafsir al-Mizan, Allameh  Tabataba’i,vol 5, page 149,vol 13 ,page 196

26- Tafsir al maraghi , vol 2 , page 31

27- Al-tibyan fi adab hamalat al-quran,vol 3 ,page 403; Majma‘ al-Bayan,Tabarsi,vol 3 ,page 224; Tafsir al-Mizan, Allameh  Tabataba’i,vol 5, page 150

28- Al-tibyan fi adab hamalat al-quran,vol 3 ,page 402; Tafsir al-Kabir, Fakhr al-Din al-Razi,vol 11 ,page 117

29- Tafsir al-Mizan, Allameh  Tabataba’i,vol 5, page 151

30- Al-Jami’ li Ahkam al-Qur’an (Tafsir al-Qurtubi),vol6,page 23; Fath al-Qadir, Muhammad ash-Shawkani,vol 1,page 541; Tafsir al-Kabir, Fakhr al-Din al-Razi,vol 12 ,page 60

31- Tafsir al-Kabir, Fakhr al-Din al-Razi,vol 12 ,page 60; Al-Zamakhshari , Al-Kashshaaf (“the Revealer”),vol 1,page 593; al-Tahrir wa al-Tanwir (‘The Verification and Enlightenment’),vol 4 ,page 54-57

32- Tafsir al-Kabir, Fakhr al-Din al-Razi,vol 6 ,page 59,vol 11 ,page 116; Tafsir al-Mizan, Allameh Tabataba’i,vol 3, page 286

33- Al-tibyan fi adab hamalat al-quran,vol 3 ,page 403; Majma‘ al-Bayan,Tabarsi,vol 3 ,page 223

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