Many non-trinitarian groups, such as Jehovah's Witnesses, The Way International, Oneness Pentecostalism, Christadelphians, and various Armstrongite groups reject the Trinity as pagan in origin. They point to various, and alleged, similarities between the Christian Trinity and the pagan trinities of other cultures. For example, under the heading "Historical Development of the Trinity Doctrine"the Watchtower magazine states:
"History confirms that the Trinity was borrowed from pagans and existed centuries before Jesus came to the earth. Long after his death, it was promoted by those who had been influenced by pagan philosophies and who had apostatized from the true worship of God as taught by Jesus and the apostles." (Watchtower, 1988, June 1, p. 18).
Similarly, the Watchtower's Should you Believe in the Trinity magazine, under the heading "What Influenced It" [i.e. the Trinity], states the following:
"That is why, in the Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, James hastings wrote: "In Indian religion, e.g., we meet with the trinitarian group of Brahma, Siva, and Vishnu; and in Egyptian religion with the trinitarian group of Osiris, Isis, and Horus..." (p. 11).
Page 12 of the same publication then goes on to argue that the Church adopted these beliefs into their theology and hence apostatised from the truth. Is this really sound reasoning? Is there any truth in these assertions?
The above mentioned quote from the Watchtower's Trinity booklet mentions the triad of "Brahma, Siva, and Vishnu" and seeks to imply that the Christian Trinity is similar to it. Here are the actual facts:
Brahma - One member of the triad Hindu God is actually a 5 headed God within a 3 headed trinity! non-trinitarians often falsely misrepresent the Trinity as a 3 headed monster, but to add another 2 heads on shows how far they are willing to go! Brahma is also often depicted as having four arms!
Siva - A God of sensuality (hardly comparable to the Christian God!).
Vishnu - Often depicted as a being with four hands!
What about the other example of "Horus, Osiris, and Isis"? Can this be cited as evidence of having a similarity with the Christian Trinity? No it cannot:
Isis - a female goddess.
Osiris - husband of Isis.
Horus - son of Isis and Osiris.
Also, this triad was not considered one God (as in Christianity) but rather three separate gods.
One of the major problems with the reasoning of non-trinitarian groups, such as the Watchtower Society, is that by claiming that some vague similarities exist between the Trinity and some aspects of pagan triads, they actually condemn much of what they believe themselves as being "pagan" as well. For example, if the Watchtower were to use the same criteria that they use to judge the Trinity as pagan, they would also have to condemn the resurrection of Jesus, baptism, the concept of the Logos, the flood account in Genesis, the Jewish temple and tabernacle, the doctrine of Satan, the Lord's supper, the creation account, etc., as many pagan cultures spoke of these things before the Jews recognized them and before the coming of Christianity. Does this mean that these things are pagan as well? Of course not. There are significant differences between the Biblical concepts and the pagan one's. The same is true of the Trinity. But according to the reasoning that Jehovah's Witnesses use all the above mentioned beliefs should be rejected as pagan because they reject the Trinity on the same grounds. This is a clear case of double standards as far as the Watchtower's reasoning is concerned. The point is, that just because there are some vague similarities with pagan predecessors there are many significant differences as well. This is exactly the same with the Trinity.
For some more related articles on this subject from other web sites see the following links:
The Interactive Bible website: Trinity is not Borrowed from the Pagans!
The Let us Reason website: Is the Trinity Pagan?
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