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The Bible – fourth person in the Trinity?


The Bible is not a book. It’s an anthology. It binds together translations of ancient manuscripts from different authors, with many/most of the manuscripts individually having a complex development. And all covering, say, the period of a millenium. There’s not even agreement what to bind in this anthology and what not to bind in it.

Sure, this collection is inspired and inspiring, but some people shift it from being a record of God’s revelation, with a particular role in God’s revelation, to actually being God’s revelation. Full stop.

That doesn’t mean they necessarily treat it more reverently, or live by it more fervently. Like people who are not married to an individual as much as they are married to the idea of being married, or who are not so much in love with the person they are in a relationship with but in love with being in a relationship. Just because people tout that they have what they might term a “high view of scripture” doesn’t actually mean that the scriptures impact their lives more than those whom they would deprecate as having a “low view of scripture”.

And then there are those who turn the Bible into a person. People say some turn Mary into the fourth Person in the Trinity, or the Pope into the fourth Person. But some appear to make the Bible the fourth Person in the Trinity.

The details need not concern us of Dr. Joel Willitts (Associate Professor in Biblical and Theological Studies at North Park University) coming out recently as an (don’t worry if these terms mean little to you) “Egalitarian” from a “Complementarian” background [Yes, let’s not get distracted that the only two questions asked him in his interview for this position were one on women and the other on homosexuality – clearly the two central issues in Christianity 🙁 ] What struck me in his second coming-out post was using such strong person language about the Bible:

…while the Bible is sufficient on the things it wishes to be, it is not on that which it does not intend to be. And what’s more, the Bible is perspicuous on that which it means to be…

So there you have it. For some people the Bible wishes, intends, and means…

My response: I bet the Bible wishes it was clearer about its intentions…

During this Southern-Hemisphere, Aotearoa-New Zealand, go-slow season sometimes your comments may take longer than usual to get through moderation…

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11 thoughts on “The Bible – fourth person in the Trinity?”

  1. I just finished a short essay on the LXX here – and it ends with I think a similar problem to what you are getting at. Just what do we need and how does the Bible address it? Hard to talk about without offending someone.

    Noting the heat wave in the tennis, I hope you in NZ are more temperate!

  2. Well, as I’ve said before, there are Christians, and then there are Biblians.

    Biblians, though often identifying as Christians, tell us: “We believe in the Bible. We follow the Bible.”

    But Christ Jesus didn’t say: “Come, follow the Bible.”

    No, he said, “Come, follow me” (Mark 1:17).

    Christians believe in and follow Christ Jesus, not the Bible.

    The Bible is only useful insofar as it points to Christ Jesus, as he told the Biblians of his day: “You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me!” (John 5:39).

    What’s more, Christians hold Christ Jesus to be Lord of everything, the Bible included, and as such they know they must read it through the prism of him and the basics of his gospel: Love God, love neighbor, love enemy.

    When not read through that prism, the Bible can lead people into committing sinful and un-Christlike behavior, seemingly true to the perceived “apparent” letter of its pages, but contradicting the words, spirit and intent of his gospel.

    That’s why Biblians will harp on Leviticus 20:13 to “biblically” advocate the death sentence for some human beings, while Christians shrink back from drawing such a conclusion, since they can’t read Leviticus 20:13 without bearing in mind Christ Jesus’ command (not suggestion) in Luke 6:31: “Treat others the same way you want to be treated.”

    There’s a big difference between being a Biblian and being a Christian.

    As Episcopalian layperson, teacher and writer Verna Dozier said of Biblianism: “What we have done is make an idol out of the Bible, to make it the fourth person of the Trinity.”

    Sadly true, for some…

    1. [This comment has not passed moderation because it is ad hominem. Please play the ball, not the man, Justin]

    2. Here’s some scriptures you can examine PROVING that the Word IS God:

      “1. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 14. and the Word became flesh….” (John 1:1,14,ONMB)

      “…and His name has been called the Word of God. ” (Revelation 19:13, ONMB)

      “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.” (1 John 5:7, KJV)

  3. Hugh McCafferty

    I have heard the bible described as ‘God’s workshop manual for living’. If God is as clever as I think God is, the workshop manual would have been better written and include an index, diagrams and flow charts.

  4. It’s very easy to play Sunday School…and very difficult to love others as oneself.

    ( It’s particularly difficult to love Bible-thumpers in my experience )

  5. In response to your question I think of how the Bible itself might suggest as some answers – and the terms “Word” and “Wisdom” come to mind. The beginning of John’s Gospel links “Word” with Jesus. So we can almost think of him as a Living Torah – a Living Source of God’s teaching and Creative Word. And “Wisdom” in the Old Testament is often personified, sometimes implying Christ, at other times the Spirit. Since Christ and the Spirit are often referred to as the two hands of God, this gives us insight, I think, into Scripture as a repository of Wisdom.

    I’m just laying out some thoughts here and hopefully these will spark the thinking of others. But, in essence, the Bible itself – the collection of Wisdom it contains – seems, from my perspective, to witness to the Trinity, but is not and end in itself. Within and across the Bible it’s like a conversation is taking place. Like a symphony or a dance, calling to us, exhorting us, ministering to us, urging us to thanks and praise, to concern for our neighbor and conversion of heart. The Bible images God for us. (Even our Triune God in mutual conversation and interaction.) In the Bible we find images of ourselves – images both of limitation and exaltation.

    There’s so much here for us to ponder.

    I love your questions, Bosco!

  6. I write of some one of such ancient vintage that i grew up RC before Vatican II was even dreamed of.
    As such the Bible per se was not part of my upbringing. We heard parts of the Gospels and Letters at Sunday Mass and small scraps of psalms etc in introits, graduals and the like. Some was very poetic. There was no Bible in my parent’s house house nor in the house of any other Catholic family I knew. We were unusual we had the four Gospels but certainly no other part of New Testament.
    At the Boys School I attended and its very intensive Daily Apologetics Hilaire Belloc and Chesterton were certainly more important than the Old Testament. There was also a theologian called Aquinas/
    As a result, though we did hear from time to time that the Bible contained the word of God and somehow came to the conclusion that God had dictated it to various secretaries, the Bible effectively was what was transmitted to us through church teaching. We cerainly knew about Adam, eve and the serpent particularly as it made sense of the role of Mary. Also Noah, Cain and Abel,Joseph and his brothers, parts of Moses And that left out most of the unpleasant parts and indeed prophets. in final years Job popped up. in english we were introduced to “Paradise Lost” and Satan became soething of a hero to those of us interested in such interminable carrying ons,
    I now know the bible quite well but have never regarded it with awe. I agree with most that Bosco has written here but “This collection is inspired and inspiring’. There is much uninspiring in both New as well as Old. And inspired? Well thinking about the world, nature, the mysterious and beyond and so on is often inspired and appears in writing. The Bible is a glorious anthology often, but not always, about our struggle to understand being.
    Unfortunately many, probably most Christians are in some part Biblians. And a good number have indeed gone beyond Christianity.

  7. Reflecting some more on inspiration i remembered a marvelous essay by Sara Miles of ST Gregory of Nyasa on the most important word in the Bible=WITH. Indeed In our deep reflections g-d works WITH us not through us,

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