Friday, June 20, 2014

The Jewish Trinity: How the Old Testament Reveals the Christian Godhead by Dr. Michael Heiser

Below is a link to a blogpost on one of my other blogs.

At one his websites (Two Powers in Heaven) Dr. Michael Heiser continues to argue rabbinical scholar Alan Segal's claim (nearly 30 years ago) that up until the 2nd century C.E., it was permissible in Judaism to believe in the concept of there being "two powers" in heaven without being heretical or pagan or polytheistic. It was a sort of Jewish Binitarianism. In the video lectures, Dr. Heiser makes his BIBICAL case. Then using ancient Jewish Binitarianism he bridges the gap from (strict/monistic) Monotheism to Trinitarianism.

The late Alan Segal's book is titled, Two Powers in Heaven: Early Rabbinic Reports about Christianity and Gnosticism. Though Segal regarded the "two powers" view as heretical, he adamantly argued that as a matter of historical fact that many Jews did believe such a doctrine in times past and that it was considered permissible back then.
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See also:

The Great Mystery; or, How Can Three Be One?

by Christian William Henry Pauli

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Great Mystery; or, How Can Three Be One?

originally posted 7/15/15

by Christian William Henry Pauli

The following link is to a book that argues that the doctrine of the Trinity was not a complete theological novum invented by the Apostles or the Church Fathers but was strongly hinted at or even believed by Jews and taught in their writings before, during and (for some time) after the beginning of the Christian era. I'm convinced there's some truth to the claim, but not necessarily to the degree argued in the book. Caveat Lector.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Holy, Holy, Holy - Classic Hymn

Words: Re­gi­nald He­ber, 1826. Heber wrote this hymn for Trin­i­ty Sun­day while he was Vi­car of Hod­net, Shrop­shire, Eng­land.

Music: Nicaea, John B. Dykes, in Hymns An­cient and Mo­dern, 1861

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee;
Holy, holy, holy, merciful and mighty!
God in three Persons, blessèd Trinity!

Holy, holy, holy! All the saints adore Thee,
Casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;
Cherubim and seraphim falling down before Thee,
Who was, and is, and evermore shall be.

Holy, holy, holy! though the darkness hide Thee,
Though the eye of sinful man Thy glory may not see;
Only Thou art holy; there is none beside Thee,
Perfect in power, in love, and purity.

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
All Thy works shall praise Thy Name, in earth, and sky, and sea;
Holy, holy, holy; merciful and mighty!
God in three Persons, blessèd Trinity!


Saturday, June 14, 2014

Pre-Existence of Jesus in the Synoptic Gospels

(last updated 6/23/14)

The following is a re-working of my comments to a review of Bart Ehrman's book How Jesus Become God. Here's a LINK to the actual review.

I wrote the comments (and this blog post) attempting to build a bridge that would help someone starting from a liberal and unbelieving scholarly position to a believing conservative scholarly position. That's why I'll make my case in very modest terms and admit to possible weaknesses in my argumentation.

An essential aspect in defense of the fully Deity of Christ is to provide evidence of Christ's pre-existence. It's often argued by skeptics that the deity of Christ and His pre-existence is something that developed in the early Church a long time after Christ's crucifixion. However, if Christ's pre-existence can be supported by the Synoptic Gospels, then that lends credence to the doctrine's early origins since they preserve the teaching of Jesus of Nazareth to some degree or another (depending on one's approach to the topic, whether liberal or conservative). Also, if it can be shown that some Jews, both before and after the time of Christ, expected the Messiah to be Pre-existent on the basis of Old Testament teaching, then that too would lend credence to the possible early origins of the doctrine of Christ's pre-existence. Since, it would not be a doctrine completely alien to Old Testament theology if even non-Christian Jews derived Messianic pre-existence from the Hebrew Scriptures.

The antiquity of the doctrine of the personal preexistence of Christ within the church can be documented as early as the first half of the 2nd century. Tim McGrew wrote:
The Apology of Aristides, discovered in 1889, was addressed to the Emperor Hadrian, who became emperor in 117 and died in 138. Aristides writes: “It is acknowledged that Jesus is the Son of the Most High God, and that by the Holy Ghost He came down from heaven for the salvation of men. And that having been conceived of a holy virgin without seed and incorruptibly, He took upon Him flesh, and was manifested to men.” Only John, of the four Gospel writers, uses the expression “... came down from heaven ...” in connection with the incarnation (John 3:13, 6:33, etc.); and only John speaks of Jesus’ human nature as “flesh,” a distinctive term in Greek.

Part 1

 Simon Gathercole's three part Lectures on the Preexistence of Christ in the Synoptics can be downloaded HERE or HERE (or on YouTube HERE). He gives special emphasis on Jesus' oft repeated statement "I HAVE COME..." I highly recommend listening to all three lectures.

The following is a list of Gathercole texts which he says can imply or hint at Christs pre-existence in the Synoptic Gospels. I've included some of my own comments with Gathercole's comments.

Gathercole cites 10 sayings

Spoken by Demons
1. "What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are---the Holy One of God."- Mark 1:24

2. And behold, they cried out, "What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?"- Matt. 8:29

"I Have Come..." Sayings Proper

3. And he said to them, "Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out."- Mark 1:38
Compare with  Luke 4:43; John 9:4-5; Luke 4:18

4. And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners."- Mark 2:17
Compare with Matt. 9:13; Luke 5:32

5. "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.- Matt. 5:17

6. "I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled!- Luke 12:49

7. Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.- Luke 12:51
The parallel in Matthew uses the word "sword." It may allude to the Old Testament example of the Angel of the LORD with a sword (Num. 22; Josh. 5; 1 Chron. 21).

8. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.- Matt. 10:35

Jesus' Statement of the "Son of Man" Has Come

9. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."- Mark 10:45

even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."- Matt. 20:28

10. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost."- Luke 19:10

An 11th one that I'm including in Gathercole's list is:

Matt. 11:19 & Luke 7:34-35

The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds."- Matt. 11:19

 34 The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, 'Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!'35 Yet wisdom is justified by all her children."- Luke 7:34-35

Apologist Tony Costa has said that Mark 1:1ff (esp. v. 2) alludes to Exodus 23:20 which refers to "the angel". Specifically, Costa says Mark 1:1ff is likely a cluster of three (3) quotations/allusion, not merely two (2). That's because Mark 1:2 in the Greek most closely resembles Exodus 23:20 (in the Septuagint) which refers to an angel/Angel whom God promised He would send. If 1. Mark really is alluding to this passage in Exodus, and 2. if that angel is The Angel of YHVH, then Mark is likely connecting Jesus with the Angel of YHVH. If so, then that kills at least two birds with one stone. It undermines versions of Unitarianism that 1. deny Christ's Preexistence and 2. versions of Unitarianism which affirm Jesus is only/merely a human savior.

Tony Costa made the above claim in the following debate at 1:18:05 into the debate.

Part 2

The following is my modified comments at Triablogue with many additions.

[That was a] Good review by Kruger but I wish he included evidence for Jesus' pre-existence in the Synoptics. I've included his review to a collection of links to my blog Resources Responding to Bart Ehrman

Post Christian Jewish tradition includes the notion held by some Jews that the messiah would be pre-existent before his birth. If I recall correctly, some Jewish traditions prior to Christ do too. One of the reasons why both some Jews and Christians have believed in the pre-existence of the Messiah is that the Tanach hints at it often.
But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. - Micah 5:2
The above is probably THE classic passage in the Hebrew Scriptures suggesting that the Messiah would be pre-existent.
 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. - Isa. 9:6
The phrase "a son is given" might suggest pre-existence. The phrase "Everlasting Father" has the meaning of "possessor of eternity" (i.e. possessing eternality), and hence suggests or at least is consistent with pre-existence. Though, one intepretation would be that it refers to eternality in the direction of future, but doesn't touch on the question of past eternality. In which case, it wouldn't be a prooftext of messianic pre-existence. The name "mighty God" is also used in the very next chapter (Isa. 10:21) in reference to YHWH/Jehovah/Yahweh the most high God of Israel. Therefore, it's not inconsistent to possibly interpret the name "mighty God" in Isa. 9:6 as teaching the divinity of the Messiah. In which case, the Messiah would be pre-existent since that's an attribute of divinity.
Who has ascended to heaven and come down? Who has gathered the wind in his fists? Who has wrapped up the waters in a garment? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is his name, and what is his son's name? Surely you know! - Prov. 30:4
The above passage describes the prerogatives of God and then asks whether the reader knows the name of God's son. It seems unlikely that God's son here is a reference to Israel since people did know Jacob and Israel's name. Rightly or wrongly, this understandably has been interpreted to be a Messianic passage by Christians (and presumably by some Jews too, even if only a minority). Notice it doesn't say, what SHALL his name be, but what IS his name. Thus, suggesting the son's current existence and therefore the pre-existence of the Messiah. Which is in keeping with the concept that the Messiah would be God's "son", if not in the ontological sense that Christians would latter believe, then as the Davidic king as even many Jews believe.

Draw near to me, hear this: from the beginning I have not spoken in secret, from the time it came to be I have been there." And now the Lord GOD has sent me, and his Spirit. - Isa. 48:16
The passage above could be interpreted in such a way as to be limited to Isaiah's pronouncement of his own commissioning. However, another possibility here is that Isaiah is speaking not only of his own commissioning but also of the Messiah's commissioning in a sort of dual meaning as some commentators suggest. If so, then it also suggests the messiahs pre-existence.

Here's one example of a commentary interpreting it to have a dual meaning.
The prophet here speaks, claiming attention to his announcement as to Cyrus, on the ground of his mission from God and His Spirit. But he speaks not in his own person so much as in that of Messiah, to whom alone in the fullest sense the words apply (Isa_61:1; Joh_10:36). Plainly, Isa_49:1, which is the continuation of the forty-eighth chapter, from Isa_48:16, where the change of speaker from God (Isa_48:1, Isa_48:12-15) begins, is the language of Messiah. Luk_4:1, Luk_4:14, Luk_4:18, shows that the Spirit combined with the Father in sending the Son: therefore “His Spirit” is nominative to “sent,” not accusative, following it.- Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary

"The LORD possessed me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of old.- Prov. 8:22ff.

Regardless of whether Prov. 8:22ff is actually prophetic of Messiah or not many Jewish and Christian interpreters have thought so (e.g. some of the church fathers like Athanasius, and possibly pre-Christian Jews).
Which again supports the notion that the pre-existence of the Messiah didn't spring up in a vacuum without some justification from the Old Testament.

 The classic 1906 Jewish encyclopedia states:

Preexistence of the Messiah:

This includes his existence before Creation; the existence of his name; his existence after the creation of the world. Two Biblical passages favor the view of the preexistence of the Messiah: Micah v. 1 (A. V. 2), speaking of the Bethlehemite ruler, says that his "goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting"; Dan. vii. 13 speaks of "one like the Son of man," who "came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days." In the Messianic similitudes of Enoch (xxxvii.-lxxi.) the three preexistences are spoken of: "The Messiah was chosen of God before the creation of the world, and he shall be before Him to eternity" (xlviii. 6). Before the sun and the signs of the zodiac were created, or ever the stars of heaven were formed his name was uttered in the presence of the Lord of Spirits (= God; xlviii. 3). Apart from these passages, there are only general statements that the Messiah was hidden and preserved by God (lxii. 6-7, xlvi. 1-3), without any declaration as to when he began to be. His preexistence is affirmed also in II Esdras (about 90 C.E.), according to which he has been preserved and hidden by God "a great season"; nor shall man8kind see him save at the hour of his appointed day (xii. 32; xiii. 26, 52; xiv. 9), although no mention is made of the antemundane existence either of his person or of his name (comp. Syriac Apoc. Baruch, xxix. 3).

Thus also the Rabbis. Of the seven things fashioned before the creation of the world, the last was the name of the Messiah (comp. Ps. lxxii. 17; Pes. 54a; Tan., Naso, ed. Buber, No. 19; and parallels); and the Targum regards the preexistence of the Messiah's name as implied in Micah v. 1 (A. V. 2), Zech. iv. 7, and Ps. lxxii. 17.

The "Spirit of God" which "moved upon the face of the waters" (Gen. i. 2) is the spirit of the Messiah (Gen. R. viii. 1; comp. Pesiḳ. R. 152b, which reads as follows, alluding to Isa. xi. 2: "The Messiah was born [created] when the world was made, although his existence had been contemplated before the Creation"). Referring to Ps. xxxvi. 10 and Gen. i. 4, Pesiḳta Rabba declares (161b): "God beheld the Messiah and his deeds before the Creation, but He hid him and his generation under His throne of glory." Seeing him, Satan said, "That is the Messiah who will dethrone me." God said to the Messiah, "Ephraim, anointed of My righteousness, thou hast taken upon thee the sufferings of the six days of Creation" (162a; comp. Yalḳ., Isa. 499). The preexistence of the Messiah in heaven and his high station there are often mentioned. Akiba interprets Dan. vii. 9 as referring to two heavenly thrones—the one occupied by God and the other by the Messiah (Ḥag. 14a; comp. Enoch, lv. 4, lxix. 29), with whom God converses (Pes. 118b; Suk. 52a)......

[more info omitted to fit blog post character limit]

If anyone is interested, here's my blog post Markan Christology

My additional comments here on this blog post

Matthew makes reference to Isa. 7:14 which he points out translates into "God with us" (Matt. 1:23). This is additional evidence that at least one the Synoptic authors believed in the pre-existence of the Messiah. Probably also in the Messiah's divinity, even though the Hebrew word "el" can be used to refer to spiritual beings other than the true God.

Moreover, Matthew's citation of Isa. 7:14 is also additional evidence that there is Old Testament data that could be construed to imply (rightly or wrongly) that the Messiah would pre-exist His birth (assuming that Isa. 7:14 has dual fulfillment, as many Christian commentators have argued). Thus undercutting the allegation that the concept of a pre-existing Messiah is theological innovation without some basis in the Tanach.

Finally, it should be stated that the evidence for Jesus' claimed pre-existence in the Gospel of John has been excluded because the Gospel clearly teaches it (e.g. John 1:14; 3:13, 31; 6:38, 62; 8:14, 23, 42; 10:36; 13:3; 16:28; 17:4-5 etc. [cf. 1 John 4:9-10, 14]). There are also the numerous times in the Gospel of John when Jesus said that He was sent by the Father (e.g. John 3:17, 34; 4:34; 5:23, 24, 30, 36, 37, 38; 6:29, 38, 39, 44, 57; 7:16, 18, 28, 29, 33; 8:16, 18, 26, 29, 42; 9:4; 10:36; 11:42; 12:44, 45, 49; 13:20; 14:24; 15:21; 16:5; 17:3, 8, 18, 21, 23, 25; 20:21). Then there are the verses in John where Jesus said He "came" or had "come" from the Father. However, it's generally agreed upon that it was the last canonical Gospel to be written and therefore [according to liberal scholarship] gives the least reliable account of Jesus' actions and sayings from a non-Christian HISTORICAL perspective. That is, from a non-Christian view of history. Presuppositional apologists would argue that there is a specifically Christian approach to history and that non-Christian historical approaches, methods and criteria aren't warranted or coherent. See for example the blogs at Ronald W. Di Giacomo's blog Reformed Apologist. There Ron applies the presuppostional insights of both Cornelius Van Til and Gordon Clark to the issue of the possibility of historical research from a non-Christian point of view. Having said that, I want to reiterate that I wrote this blog attempting to build a bridge that would help someone starting from a liberal and unbelieving scholarly position to a believing conservative scholarly position. That's why I made my case in very modest terms and admitted to possible weaknesses in my argumentation.

Even More Additional Notes

It should also be noted that there are references and allusions to Christ's pre-existence in the New Testament epistles. The primary focus of this blog was on Christ's pre-existence in the Synoptic Gospels. I'll be adding some passages in the epistles below as I have time to type them up; focusing on the undisputed Pauline epistles. Along with more passages from the Gospels.

Phil. 2:6-11 (esp. verses 6-7). Notice that the book of Philippians is one of the earliest books of the New Testament. It ante-dates any of the Gospels. Yet, even here Jesus' pre-existence (and that "in the form of God") is asserted and affirmed. He is said to have been distinct from the Father, conscious, thinking thoughts (taking consideration), having an attitude of humility, making decisions and taking action (i.e. "emptying Himself). See James White's book The Forgotten Trinity. He summarizes his interpretation of Philippians 2 in a sermon on The Carmen Christi: Philippians 2:5-11. See also his Review of the Ehrman/Gathercole Unbelievable Exchange.

Galatians 4:4 implies (or positively teaches) Christ's pre-existence. Christ was God's Son who was, in the fulness of time, born of a woman.

Romans 8:3 also implies (or positively teaches) Christ's pre-existence. God sent His Son, in the likeness of sinful flesh (i.e. the incarnation of the pre-incarnate Christ).

In Mark 2:27 Jesus refers to Himself as the "Lord of the Sabbath." This is a subtle (or not so subtle) claim to full deity. As I've argued elsewhere, this suggests Christ pre-existence [even full deity].

Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, "Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me;- Heb. 10:5

Hebrews 10:5 is so clear to me that I would have to excise it from the NT canon if I were to maintain a non-personal pre-existence of Christ.

In the Synoptic Gospels the title "Son of Man" is Jesus' favorite self-designation. Many of those passages include the idea of the Son of Man "coming." Sometimes the "coming" refers to some future or past time. The past times include Matt. 11:19; 20:28; Mark 10:45; Luke 7:34; 19:10. When these passages of the coming of the Son of Man in the past are coupled with Dan. 7:13, they imply (at the very least) the pre-existence of Christ. When those passages that refer to the future coming of the Son of Man are coupled with Dan. 7:13, they imply the full deity of Christ. See my argument for this in my blogpost titled,

Regarding Mark 14:62 and Daniel 7:13; Jesus Coming With the Clouds

The Most Plausible Anti-Trinitarian Complaint

(last updated 6/23/14)

Probably the most common comment, complaint, charge and challenge (yay for alliteration!) that anti-Trinitarians make and which also has (IMHO) the greatest plausibility to it is, "If the doctrine of the Trinity is true why doesn't the Bible directly teach it?" There are variations to the comment.

For example:

"Why doesn't Jesus teach it in the Gospels?"

"Where does the Bible state that God is one in being and three in person (or is one in essence/substance and three in subsistence)?"

"Nowhere in the Bible is the doctrine of the Trinity described in full."

"Jesus, as a 1st century Jew, assumes the standard strict monotheistic conception of God and never corrects it. For example, in Mark 10:17-18; Mark 12:28-31; John 17:3."

 "Unitarianism should be the default position until you can prove Trinitarianism since the Bible explicitly teaches God is one and we are in agreement that every other personal being we can think of or discuss is always one in being and one in person."

Jesus affirmed the Jewish Shema in Mark 12:29 and would have naturally interpreted it in the strict monotheistic way the Jews did at the time. Why should we interpret it any other way?.

How should or how can Trinitarians respond to such statements if given or asked in sincerity?

In this blog post I want to answer the above complaint as it would be given by someone who believes in the inspiration of both the Old and New Testaments but nevertheless rejects the doctrine of the Trinity. That is, to Unitarians like Anthony Buzzard et al. Such people affirm the authority of the New Testament, but nevertheless reject the doctrine of the Trinity because they can't seem to find it there. This blog therefore assumes the inspiration and infallibility of Scripture and won't attempt to argue for it.

Three things must be distinguished and a fourth thing recognized.

1. Non-Inspired Doctrinal Development. [NDD]
2. The concept of inspired Progressive Revelation [PR]
3. Inspired Doctrinal Development [IDD]
4. Jesus Veiled Mission and Identity [JVMI]

1. Non-Inspired Doctrinal Development. [NDD]
 1. Non-Inspired Doctrinal Development is the development of doctrine among the people of God in an uninspired non-revelatory way during times when full infallible inspiration has/had ceased (e.g. during the intertestamental period, then later after the closing of the Canon of Scripture).

[As a side note, I'm a continuationist. Specifically a Charismatic. However, I don't think continuationism negates Sola Scriptura (or what I prefer to term Summa Scriptura and which seems to be somewhat similar to what some people call Prima Scriptura).]

As a matter of fact, since the closing of the Old Testament Canon (both during the intertestamental period [as Christians would refer to it] and since the closing of the New Testament) Jews have developed doctrines that have similarities to the doctrine of the Trinity in various ways. Often by affirming a kind of plurality in God. Or by positing an intermediary that was God-like and, analogously, Christ-like. For evidence of this see the resources on this blog along with the link to another blog post of mine HERE. This fact itself would suggest that the doctrine of the Trinity is not so completely alien to Old Testament theology that it must be rejected outright and without further consideration. Otherwise Jews would not have come to such conclusions. Conclusions which they often prooftext by quoting the Old Testament.

Non-inspired doctrinal development has also occurred in Christian history and theology as it did in Jewish history and theology. Such non-inspired development rightly cannot, should not and understandably does not bind the conscience of believers in the New Testament Scriptures. Anti-Trinitarians are therefore right in not accepting the doctrine of the Trinity merely on the basis of tradition or Tradition (with a capital "T").

2. The concept of inspired Progressive Revelation [PR]

The concept of Progressive Revelation is acknowledged by New Testament believing Unitarians like Anthony Buzzard. Otherwise they wouldn't accept Jesus' messiahship, mediatorship, atonement and a host of other New Testament teachings not explicitly found in the Old Testament. However, in my opinion, strict/simple Unitarians don't take the concept of progressive revelation seriously enough in all its implications. Naively appealing to Jesus' monotheism, as Unitarians like Anthony Buzzard do, doesn't do justice to the principle of Progressive Revelation. Revelation didn't stop with Jesus. As Jesus Himself instructed and prophesied. When taken seriously, progressive revelation would lead to the 3rd distinction. Namely......

3. Inspired Doctrinal Development [IDD]

Inspired Doctrinal Development happened during times when inspired Revelation was still being given either verbally or in written form. Or when verbal revelation was being recorded in written form.

This type of development occurs during a time when people could still receive inspired revelation from God, but sometimes made doctrinal inferences and decisions based on their limited understanding of the implications of already given revelation. During such times there's a kind of imprecision and growth in understanding while doctrine is still developing and being refined.

It should go without saying that not all inspired revelations were recorded in Scripture. Also, that because of the historical nature of the Bible, it's also the case that some inspired doctrinal developments have been recorded in Scripture itself (even if not all).

Here are some examples recorded in the New Testament Church:

  • The Gospel was ultimately also intended for the Gentiles

  • Circumcision is no longer necessary for full obedience to God

  • The Biblical kosher laws are no longer necessary for full obedience to God

  • Eating meat sacrificed to idols is permissible with proper understanding and practice contrary to the decree and teaching of the Apostles at the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15. Contrast the seemingly contradictory teaching of Paul in 1 Cor. 8 and Acts 15.

  • There is some sense in which the Old Testament Law no longer applies or is binding. I'll leave the details of this aside and keep this point ambiguous because explaining it will take us away from the topic of this blog post. I mention this as a matter of fact based on Heb. 7:12, 18-19; 8:8, 13; Gal. 2:16, 19, 21: 3:10-13, 21, 23-24; Rom. 3:21; 7:4; 10:4; Acts 13:39 et cetera

  • For Evangelicals, another example is the doctrine of justification by faith alone

It took time for the apostolic Church to come to such conclusions. There were minor disagreements, disputes and doubts. The Church as a whole grew into these conclusions. Such inspired development was sometimes the result of a direct and explicit revelation AND/OR due to a logical inference drawn from the implications and ramifications of the Gospel and other sound teaching or revelation  previously given.

Let's look at the specific example of eating meat sacrificed to idols. At first the Apostles in Acts 15 forbade the eating of such meat because it would violate their understanding of the Gospel at that time. However, Paul's further developed understanding of the implications of the Gospel allowed him to clarify in what sense it was permissible to eat such meat. This shows doctrinal development in the apostolic Church even though one would think that since apostles existed who could receive revelation from God, that therefore the Church would come to perfect and unified doctrinal truth immediately from the very start. But we don't see that in the history of the apostolic Church as recorded in inspired Scripture. Doctrines had to develop EVEN in the apostolic Church when (and while) the apostles were still living.

From these examples it's clearly evident that the apostolic Church was growing in it's understanding of truth and the Gospel during the lives of the Apostles. IT WAS NOT the case that AFTER Jesus died and rose again that the Apostles always and only preached what Jesus taught and preached. Jesus Himself said,

"I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.13 However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.- John 16:12-13

Then He said to them, "Therefore every scribe instructed concerning the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure things new and old."- Matt. 13:52

 Paul wrote:

15    Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you.16 Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind.- Phil. 3:15-16
12    For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food.13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe.14 But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.- Heb. 5:12-14
9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part.10 But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.- 1 Cor. 13:9-10

12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.- 1 Cor. 13:12
Peter even acknowledged that angels were still learning things about the Gospel as the Church progressed in understanding.

12 To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven --- things which angels desire to look into.- 1 Pet. 1:12
This is just a sampling of the evidence that the Apostolic Church grew in it's understanding of the Gospel.

I belabored the point above to argue that the same thing is true of the nature and work of Jesus (i.e. of Christology). And the reason this is especially true is because of the this next point.

4. Jesus Veiled Mission and Identity [JVMI]

Prior to His crucifixion, Jesus occasionally, and in private, made it clear that He was the Messiah. However, for most of His ministry He veiled His mission and identity. Sometimes to the point of veiling His healings and exorcisms. See THIS LINK for examples. It was not until the Triumphal Entry that Jesus publicly announced His Messiahship. Even then, it wasn't absolutely explicit.

Here's a sampling of the evidence Jesus veiled His mission and identity.

Jesus didn't specifically and explicitly tell John the Baptist He was the Messiah when asked. See. Matt. 11:4-6

The fact that Jesus had to ask His disciples, "...Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?" (Matt. 16:13c) proves that Jesus didn't go about publicly claiming He was the Messiah. Otherwise, Peter's declaration three verses latter that Jesus was the Messiah wouldn't make any sense (Matt. 16:16). Peter wouldn't have had to present his opinion of who Jesus was since he would have already heard Jesus say, "I am the Messiah", or words to that effect. The text goes on to say,

Then He commanded His disciples that they should tell no one that He was Jesus the Christ.- Matt. 16:20
Then He strictly warned them that they should tell no one about Him.- Mark 8:30
Compare Matt. 16:13-20 to it's parallel in Mark 8:27-30.

After Christ's transfiguration Scripture says,

9    Now as they came down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them, saying, "Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man is risen from the dead."- Matt. 17:9 compare Mark 9:9

Much more evidence could be marshaled to prove that Jesus veiled His messianic identity. There are various reasons for why Jesus did so, but it must be realized that if Jesus veiled his Messiahship, how much more would He veil his Divinity IF He were Divine and God? Non-Trinitarians have got to think about that seriously as a hypothetical thought experiment. One of the reasons why Jesus veiled His Messiah was in order not to get stoned to death or crucified too early. It would have ruined God's planned timing of Jesus' crucifixion which was to be after Jesus gave all the teaching that He did give. God probably also timed Christ's crucifixion to fulfill the timing of the prophecy of the coming of the Messiah in Dan. 9:24-26.

Now if the premature unveiling of Jesus messiahship would ruin God's plan and timing, how much more would the Jews have prematurely crucified or (more likely) stoned Jesus for publicly claiming to be God? Such a claim by a human being would be completely outrageous in the eyes and ears of Jews. Yet that's precisely what almost happened in (presumably) private conversations in John 5:18 and John 10:31. In these two passage Jesus didn't explicitly claim to be God, even though the Jews rightly inferred Jesus implicit claim to deity and so were ready to stone Him.

Let's review all Four Points and put it all together:

1. Non-Inspired Doctrinal Development. [NDD]
2. The concept of inspired Progressive Revelation [PR]
3. Inspired Doctrinal Development [IDD]
4. Jesus Veiled Mission and Identity [JVMI]

When one takes into consideration all four points, it can be better understood, that if the doctrine of the Trinity were true, why Jesus never taught the doctrine of the Trinity. Along with why the New Testament doesn't explicitly teach the doctrine of the Trinity in the sense formulated by modern Trinitarians. Since the apostolic Church itself was still growing in its understanding of the person, nature and work of Christ and the implications of the Gospel. Inspired Doctrinal Development was necessary because 1. Christ veiled His identity and 2. intentionally didn't give the final/last word regarding who He was, regarding the fulness of the Gospel and regarding the person and work of the Holy Spirit.

Having said that, there is a plethora of statements and teachings in both the Gospels and the rest of the New Testament which support the Trinitarian position (which I'll call a "theory" or "hypothesis" for the sake of building a bridge for Unitarians to use to incrementally come to Trinitarian conclusions). The links I provided 1. above, 2. on this blog site, and 3. the articles in this blog site itself demonstrate that assertion that there are many passages in the Bible that supports a Trinitarian position. I've even written a rough and ready case for the Deity of Christ based solely on the Gospel of Mark. The Gospel of Mark of course is considered by most people to have been the earliest written and therefore the most primitive and pure (accurate) record of Christ's life and teachings. Here's the link:

Returning to the topic of Non-Inspired Doctrinal Development, I would grant that Modern formulations of the Trinity are examples of Non-Inspired Doctrinal Development. However, I'm of the opinion that their various formulations are closer to the truth than the most (if not all) versions of Unitarianism out there because it does the best job of accounting for all the Biblical data using Abductive reasoning. Abduction, also called Inference to the Best Explanation, is reasoning/inferring to that theory or hypothesis that has 1. the greatest explanatory power and 2. the greatest explanatory scope. Different non-Trinitarian Christologies, Theologies and Pneumatologies can explain some aspects of the Biblical data well, but to the neglect of other data which the doctrine of the Trinity can account for and make sense of.
This is how I myself have come to Trinitarian conclusions even though I still have some questions and doubts. For example, I find some plausibility in the position of Nicene Monarchism held by the brilliant former Trinitarian David Waltz and the eccentric Drake Shelton.