The Christology of the Church of the East

Dr Sebastian Brock
Traditions and Heritage of the Christian East, ed. D. Afinogenov and
A. Muraviev. Moscow: Izdatelstvo “Indrik”, 1996.


Introduction. The classic formulations of the Christology of the Church of the East are primarily to be found in the medieval compendia such as the Pearl (Marganita), by Abdisho of Nisibis (†1318), where he sets out in formulaic fashion the conflicting definitions of the three ecclesiastical communities of the Near East, the Syrian Orthodox; (Jacobites), for whom there was one kyana (ܟܝܢܐ nature) and one qnoma (ܩܢܘܡܐ hypostasis) in the incarnate Christ; the Chalcedonians (Melkites) for whom there were two kyane and one qnoma; and the Church of the East (Nestorians), who taught that there were two kyane and two qnome1 (all were agreed in one proposon). Since the origins of this formulation go back to the fifth and seventh centuries, the present paper will be confined to that formative period. Here our most important source is the collection of synods of the Church of the East, put together c.800, and generally known today as the Synodicon Orientale2. In the course of these synodical documents we have a considerable number of credal statements3; of these, the first one relevant to our purpose belongs to the year 486. In view of the paucity of other sources for the second half of the fifth century, the writings (in the form of verse homilies) of Narsai are of particular importance; several of his homilies are polemical in character and so contain many passages of christological interest4. Probably sometime after the peace with Persia near the end of Justinian`s reign, there were official discussions in Constantinople between the Greek and Persian Churches, for which a record has been preserved in a Syriac manuscript of monothelete provenance5. By far the most detailed exposition on the christology of the Church of the East from this period is the Liber de Unione by Babai the Great. (†628)6 and it was his position (advocating two qnome in the incarnate Christ) that eventually became the official teaching of the Church of the East. A number of other seventh-century Syriac writers are of relevance, notably the catholicoi Isho’yabh II7, Isho’yabh III8, and George9. Finally, mention should be made here of the florilegium of christological texts of somewhat later date, edited and translated by Abramowski and Goodman10.

Historical setting. Syriac-speaking Christianity took root outside, and to the east of, the Roman Empire from an early date, although it is only from the fourth century onwards that we begin to have reasonably good sources for the history of the Church as it developed in the Sasanian Empire11. The very fact that the Church of the East belongs geographically outside the Roman Empire had a consequence of utmost importance: since the great church councils of the Roman Empire were officially convened by the emperor, these gatherings were confined to bishops from within the Roman Empire, and so the term ecumenical in this context needs to be  understood in the sense of belonging to the Roman oikoumene. Consequently these councils were of no direct or immediate concern to the Church in Persia, that is, the Church of the East. In the course of time, however, it is not surprising that the Church of the East should have expressed an opinion on the main councils that had emerged as landmarks in the history of the Church within the Roman Empire. Thus the Council of Nicaea was officially accepted by the Church of the East at a synod held in Seleucia-Ctesiphon in 410 – a full eighty-five years after the Council had taken place.

At another synod held in 420 approval was given to the canons of a whole series of western councils, namely, Nicaea (for the second time!), Ancyra, Neocaesarea, Gangra, Antioch and Laodicea. The disorderly conduct of the Council of Ephesus, and the shabby treatment accorded to John of Antioch and his followers, naturally ensured that this Council was never received by the Church of the East12. The Council of Chalcedon was a different matter, since it was seen at least as a move in the right direction, though its doctrinal definition of faith was seen as both inadequate and illogical. The comment of the Catholicos Isho’yabh II (628-46) is typical13:

“Although those who gathered at the Synod of Chalcedon were clothed with the intention of restoring the faith, yet they too slid away from the true faith; owing to their feeble phraseology they provided a stumbling block for many. Although, in accordance with the opinion of their own minds, they preserved the true faith with the confession of the two natures, yet by their formula of one qnoma (hypostasis), it seems, they tempted weak minds. As an outcome of the affair a contradiction occurred, for with the formula of one qnoma (hypostasis) they corrupted the confession of two natures, while with the two natures they rebuked and refuted the one qnoma. Thus they found themselves standing at a crossroads, and they wavered and turned aside from the blessed ranks of the orthodox, yet they did not join the assemblies of the heretics; they both pulled down and built up, while lacking a sure foundation for their feet. On what side we should number them I do not know, for their terminology cannot stand up, as Nature and Scripture testify: for in them many qnome can be found in a single nature but it has never been the case, and it has never been heard of, that there should be various natures in a single qnoma.”

We shall be returning later to Isho’yabh’s complaint about the illogical use of the term qnoma in the Chalcedonies Definition. In the decades prior to the Council of Chalcedon, knowledge of fourth-century western synods had been brought to the synods of 410 and 420 by bishops from the eastern provinces of the Roman Empire who were also serving as imperial envoys to the Sasanian court14. At the synod of 424, however, we encounter a ban imposed on appeals to western bishops, evidently since some bishops had been appealing to them as a means of undermining the authority of the bishop of Seleucia—Ctesiphon. This left the Persian School at Edessa, so named from the many students from the Persian Empire who studied there, to become the main channel through which the Church of the East became aware of theological developments in the Roman Empire. Since the School favoured a strict dyophysite position on christology, it is not surprising that from early on in the christological disputes the Church in Persia tended to see the issues at stake from an Antiochene perspective, and to have little sympathy for the Alexandrine tradition of christology.

Furthermore, it was at the Persian School of Edessa that several works of Theodore of Mopsuestia were translated into Syriac already in the 430s. Thanks to these translations, Theodore was to become, for the Church of the East, the most influential of all the Greek Fathers in matters of theology and exegesis. Babai the Great went so far as to call him the perfect disciple of the apostles and the shrine of the Holy Spirit15. After the closure of the School of the Persians by the emperor Zeno in 489, the school was effectively transferred across the border to Nisibis. Thus, during the course of the sixth and early seventh century, when the School of Nisibis16 was at its apogee, a strict form of Antiochene christology came to be widely propagated within the Susanna Empire.

The place of the Church of the East within the theological Spectrum. All too often in the past the history of doctrine has been presented by means of a threefold model, where orthodox Chalcedon is seen as flanked on one side by heretical Monophysites and on the other by heretical Nestorians. Both modern scholarship and ecumenical dialogue have shown how perverse and misleading such a simplistic model is. It is thus of urgent importance that an alternative model, more sensitive to the gradations between the Antiochene and Alexandrine poles of the christological spectrum be adopted. For our present purposes I would propose a sevenfold model (see the accompanying table). Starting at the Alexandrine end of the spectrum the first position would be that of Eutyches, who supposedly held that Christ was consubstantial only with the Father. For this clearly heretical position one could keep the term monophysite. Very sharply to be distinguished from Eutychian position is that of Severus of Antioch and others17; this second position is of course that of the Oriental Orthodox Churches today, and this makes it all the more important avoid using, with reference to this position, the ambiguous, and hence misleading, term monophysite; I would suggest instead the term miaphysite18. The third position, as we move across the spectrum, would be that of the Neo-Chalcedonians, with their acceptance of both the Chalcedonian in two natures and the Cyrilline one incarnate nature of God the Word.

Next we have the position of silence concerning Chalcedon, represented by Zeno’s Henoticon and the Corpus of writings attributed to Dionysius the Areopagite. Moving over from the Alexandrine to the Antiochene christoligical tradition we have two positions which are clearly very close, firstly the strict dyophysites within the Roman Empire, represented by such people as Theodoret, the Akoimetai monks and the Roman Church, and secondly the dyophysites outside the Roman Empire – in other words, the position of the Church of the East. Then finally, we have the extreme Antiochene position, teaching two prosopa, which may or may not have been held by Nestorius.

With such a model it can readily be seen that different theological criteria will lead to different groupings. If the Council of Chalcedon’s definition of faith is taken as the yardstick of orthodoxy, then only the middle three positions are acceptable; if, however, one were to adjudicate on the basis of the combination of two other criteria of orthodoxy, namely a single subject in Christ, and Christ as consubstantial both with the Father and with humanity, then one would have much more comprehensive picture, for this would allow the inclusion of both the Oriental Orthodox and the Church of the East.

Seen against this broader spectrum, then, it should begin to be clear that it is hardly satisfactory to pronounce judgment on the christological teaching of either the Church of the East or that of the Oriental Orthodox Churches solely by using the Chalcedonian Definition as the yardstick of orthodoxy. In this connection two further important points need to be remembered: first, the mode of theological discourse used at the Council of Chalcedon is by no means the only one appropriate for expressing the mystery of the Incarnation, and, secondly, the terms nature and hypostasis were open to several different understandings, and this problem of ambiguity only became more pronounced when they were translated into Syriac. It is to these problems of terminology that we should now turn.

Technical terms. In the fourth century two very different modes of theological discourse existed side by side: one, characteristic of the Greek-speaking world, was analytic in character, and during the course of the Arian controversy and its aftermath, this had adopted some of the tools of Greek philosophy; the other, more characteristic of the Syriac-speaking world, was suspicious of definitions of faith, in that these were seen as setting boundaries (fines) to, and thus attempting to contain, the Uncontainable second approach, of which Ephrem is the most prominent proponent, preferred instead to use the language of poetry, paradox and metaphor. Although in the course of the fifth century it was the Greek theological agenda and mode of discourse that dominated the scene in both languages, the other approach by no means disappeared (it survived above all in the context of liturgical poetry). As far as the Church of the East is concerned, the preservation of phraseology characteristic of this earlier Syriac tradition accounts for some of the distinctive features of its christological discourse: these features are in fact archaic survivals which had been dropped elsewhere in the Christian world, but, owing to its isolation, have been preserved in the writers of the Church in Persia. A single example will help to illustrate this.

The earliest surviving Syiac writers regularly, use as a metaphor for the incarnation, the phrase He put on the body(ܠܒܫ ܦܓܪܐ)19 and it was only natural that this phrase should have been the one chosen to render ὲσαρκώθη in the earliest Syriac translation of the Nicene Creed20. The metaphor is of course by no means confined to Syriac writers, for it can also be found in many early Greek and Latin Christian writers. In the course of the fifth century, however, this and related phraseology came to be dropped, above all by writers in the Alexandrine christological tradition, since it was considered to be open to misunderstanding; thus Philoxenos of Mabbug complained that its use in certain places in the Peshitta translation of the New Testament inclined to the position of Nestorius who cast the body on to the Word as one does a garment on to an ordinary body, or as purple is put on an emperor21 (it was because of misleading renderings such as these that Philoxenos sponsored the revision of the Syriac New Testament known by his name). Already at the Second Council of Ephesus in 449 Ibas had come under attack from his enemies for using the imagery of purple in connection with the incarnation22, yet only a few decades earlier it had been perfectly acceptable in the Doctrina Addai, Edessa’s famous foundation legend23; and before that, such language had freely been used by authoritative writers like Ephrem24. The ancient Syriac metaphor of clothing in connection with the incarnation thus only continued in widespread use in the Church of the East, and throughout the sixth and seventh centuries we find numerous reflections of it, such as the garment of humanity in Mar Aba’s Letter of 54425, or the robe of His humanity in the Synod of 57626.

The christological language of the Church of the East had an archaic flavor in another respect, as well. Over the course of the fifth to the seventh century an enormous amount of Greek patristic literature was translated into Syriac; needless to say, most of this took place in the eastern provinces of the Roman Empire, rather than in the Persian Empire, and so the Church of the East became aware of this material at first in chiefly through its main point of contact with the Church in the Roman Empire, namely, the Persian School in Edessa, which (as we have already seen) had already provided Syriac translations of many of Theodore of Mopsuestia’s works in the 430s. Owing to the ever-increasing influence and prestige of Greek in the Syriac-speaking Church27, translators from Greek into Syriac moved, over the course of two and a half centuries, from a rather free and paraphrastic form of translation to a more and more literal style which, by the beginning of the seventh century, aimed to reflect as many details as possible of the Greek original. This shift in translation practice can readily be observed in both biblical and patristic translations made during this period, and over the course of time the various translators developed more and more sophisticated techniques of literal translation28. Thus, in the case of Greek texts where we have two Syriac translations, the later one if often a revision of the earlier, and time and time again one can observe the reviser replacing dynamic renderings of his predecessor by formal equivalents. This process can above all be seen in the treatment of terms for the incarnation. Whereas early translators had translated ὲσαρκώθη by the standard Syriac phrase of the incarnation ܠܒܫ ܦܓܪܐ,  He put on the body, in the course of the fifth century this was replaced by ܐܬܓܫܡ He was embodied, and finally by ܐܬܒܣܪ He was enfleshed, a direct calque on the Greek verb. A particularly significant innovation was the introduction of the neologism, ܐܬܒܪܢܫ He was inhominated, to render ένανθρωπέω; this seems to be associated with Philoxenos’ concern for accurate Christological terminology in Syriac, and its introduction probably belogs to c.50029. These new terms in due course became familiar to writers of the Church of the East, and are all found in Babai’s Liber de Unione; however, it is significant that, while the synod of Isho’yabh I (585) uses the terms ܐܬܓܫܢ and ܡܬܓܫܡܢܘܬܐ, Mar Aba (544) still uses the native Syriac terminology, ܐ݉ܢܫܘܬܐ ܕܠܒܫ the humanity which He put on30; the verb ܐܬܒܪܢܫ, and the noun ܡܬܒܪܢܫܢܘܬܐ inhomination, never feature the credal statements of the sixth-century synods (ܐܬܒܪܢܫ does, however, occur in the secondary East Syrian revision of the translation of the Nicene Creed).

The Greek terms physis and hypostasis, so central to the christological debates of the fifth and sixth centuries, posed their own problems, both in Greek and in Syriac. We have already seen the Catholicos Isho’yabh II complaining about the illogicality of the Chalcedonian Definition, speaking of two natures and one hypostasis31. Exactly the same complaint was made from the other end of the theological spectrum by no less a theologian than Severus of Antioch, who wrote32:

“It is obvious to all who have just a modicum of training in the teachings of true religion that it is contradictory to speak of two natures with reference to one Christ, he being on hypostasis. For whenever one speaks of one hypostasis one must necessarily also speak of one nature.”

Severus and Isho’yahb of course have two different starting points, the former with his emphasis on the oneness of the incarnate Christ, the latter with his concern for the full reality of the two natures, divinity and humanity, in the same incarnate Christ. But besides having different starting points, the two men have different understandings of what the two technical terms imply, and here the ambiguity is to be found in both Greek and in Syriac, though the latter there is a further problem, due to the say that, for Severus, physis is virtually synonymous with hypostasis, and with this understanding of the term, the dyophysite formula of Chalcedon is manifestly unsatisfactory. For Isho’yahb, however, kyana/ϕύσιϚ is far closer in sense to ousia than it is to hypostasis, and accordingly, a strict dyophysite position is essential if Christ is to be consubstantial with both the Father and with humanity. This understanding of kyana in the Church of the East was in fact bolstered by the earliest Syriac equivalent for homoousios by bar kyana, son of, i. e. belonging to, the same nature. The term ܒܪ ܟܝܢܐ remained in currency in the Church of the East long after it had generally been superseded in the us of the Syriac-speaking churches of the Roman Empire, where more literal renderings, such as ܒܪ ܐܝܬܘܬܐ of the same being, ,ܫܘܐ ܒܐܝܬܘܬܐ equal in being, ܫܘܐ ܒܘܣܝܼܐ equal in ousia had taken over33.

Although hypostasis was always rendered into Syriac as qnoma, the term qnoma has much a wider range of sense than does hypostasis, and in any discussion of the christology of the Church of the East, it would seem advisable to retain the Syriac term qnoma, rather than retrovert it as hypostasis. This is especially important when dealing with the distinctive teaching of the Church of the East which emerged in the course of the sixth century concerning the two qnome. (We shal return to this development in due course). In early Syriac qnoma simply means self, and can sometimes be translated person, as in the phrase, ܒܲܩܢܘܿܡܹܗ in his own person. It never, however, renders πρὀσωπου, and in a christological context it should never be translated person, though a number of scholars have, at least in the past, most misleadingly done so. For most writers of the Church of the East in the sixth century qnoma represents the individual example, or manifestation, of a kyana, or nature – a term which, as we have seen, they understood as having a generic or abstract sense.

Development in the texts of the fifth to seventh centuries.
Thanks to the witness of Narsai, the Synodicon Orientale and Babai, to name only the most important sources, it is possible to trace in outline the development of the christological teaching of the Church of the East in this formative period.

Narsai has a number of verse homilies which touch on christology. It is clear that these were written in the context of polemic against those who failed to keep the distinction between the divinity and humanity in the incarnate Christ. Narsai himself points out that, because of this polemical context34,

the zeal of foolish men
… has compelled me to distinguish the natures:
although I have distinguished the natures,
the glorious things from the lowly,
yet in my confession I have not made any split,
for it is in the one Son that I confess;
a single Lordship do I believe,
a single authority do I recognise,
as I worship equally
the Word and the habitation which He chose;
I acknowledge the King Who put on
the purple of the body of Adam;
I worship the Lord Who made great
our nature, together with His greatness.
(If) I have distinguished the one from the other,
this was not through division of mind,
but so that the accursed may not consider
that the Son is created, as they have imagined.

In this short passage it is easy to pick up echoes of the language of Theodore, notably in the metaphor of indwelling35. Significant, too, is the reappearance of two archaic features, the term body of Adam to describe Christs human nature, and the imagery of a king putting on a purple robe to portray the process of the incarnation.

Later on in the same homily Narsai specifically rejects any idea that there are two prosopa in the incarnate Christ36:

Let not the hearer suppose
by the fact that I have distinguished the natures
that I am speaking of two prosopa
which are distant from one another.
I am talking of one prosopon,
of the Word and the temple he chose (cf. John 2:21),
and I confess one Son,
but I preach in two natures:
the venerated and glorious nature of the Word,
the Being (ܐܝܼܬܝܐ) from His Father,
and our nature which He took
in accordance with the promises He made.
Perfect in His divinity,
for He is equal with His Begetter,
and complete in His humanity,
with soul and body of mortal beings.
Two that became, in the union,
a single love and a single will…

A point of contention between the Antiochene and Alexandrine christological positions lay in the interpretation of John 1:14, the Word became flesh and tabernacle in us. To theologians in the Antiochene tradition, any idea that the Word became, i.e. changed into, flesh, was anathema; instead, Narsai paraphrases the beginning of the verse as there came into being flesh, and He (the Word) dwelt (ܥܡܪ) in us; he then comments, it was not that (the Word) was lowered to a state of coming into being (ܠܘ ܠܗܘܝܐ ܐܬܗܬܝ),… but that He fashioned (lit. composed) for Himself flesh, and dwelt (ܥܡܪ) in His good will37. It is interesting to note that a centur or so later babai reiterates this interpretation in his Liber de Unione38.

There were two main reasons for Narsai’s rejection of the Alexandrine interpretation of John 1:14; in the first place, by imputing change to the Word it failed to preserve the utter transcendence of the divinity (that is why, at the end of the first passage quoted, Narsai accuses his opponents of holding that the Son is created). But perhaps even more important is Narsai’s soteriological concern, which comes out in another homily39:

If the Word became flesh,
let us enquire whose flesh it was:
did He bring it down with Him from the height,
or is it the flesh of a human being?
If He Himself (ܒܲܩܢܘܿܡܹܗ) became flesh,
and He did not take flesh from Mary,
what did His becoming flesh in what belonged to Him (ܒܕܝܼܠܹܗ)
help our (human) nature?
…how were mortals benefitted
by the Word Who became flesh,
Seeing that He came flesh in His own nature (ܒܲܟܝܵܢܹܗ),
while our nature remained in its low estate.

For Narsai (and the tradition of the Church of the East in general) salvation is effected through the assumed human nature of the incarnate Christ, and so it is essential to keep this nature distinct from the divinity if salvation is going to be effective for humanity. As we shall see, the Alexandrine christological tradition has a different conception of how salvation is effected in Christ.

It is not possible to give any precise dating to Narsai’s homilies, but presumably they will belong to the last decades of the fifth century. The first synod of the Church of the East subsequent to the Council of Chalcedon whose doctrinal statement survives is that of 48640. The language is strictly dyophysite, confessing the two natures, of the divinity and of the humanity, while none of us shall dare to introduce mixture, mingling of confusion into the differences of these two natures, though there is a single Lordship and a single (object of) worship. The union of the two natures is described as a nqiputa (corresponding to Greek synapheia). Anathema is pronounced on all who teach that suffering and change apply to (lit. attach to) the divinity of our Lord, and on all who fail to preserve, with respect to the unione of the prosopon of our Saviour, a confession of perfect God and perfect Man. As in Narsai, so here we can observe the unmistakable influence of Theodore of Mopsuestia, and the same concern to maintain the separate identity of the humanity and the divinity. I have quoted from the credal statement of this synod of 486 in some detail, since in most western textbooks the unwary student is told that it was at this synod that the Church of the East adopted Nestorianism41. Such an interpretation of the synod’s statement of faith can only be described as perverse and utterly misleading.

The short statement of the synod of 55442 reaffirms that we preserve the characteristics (ܕܝܠܝܬܐ, corresponding to ἰδιότητεϚ) of the natures, thereby getting rid of confusion, disturbance, alteration and change. At the same time, anyone who speaks of two Christs or two Sons, is anathematized. In subsequent credal statements we find such phrases as single union of the divinity and the humanity of Christ, Jesus Christ in the unification of His natures (Synod of 585)43, in an indivisible union, prosopic union (confession of faith by Isho’yahb I)44, (the divinity and the humanity are united in a true union of the one person (πρὀσωπου) of the Son, Christ (Synod of 605)45, the wonderful conjunction (ܢܩܦܐ) and inseparable union that took place from the very beginning of the fashioning (Assembly of bishops in 612)46. Significantly, the term qnoma in these credal statements of the sixth century is confined to a Trinitarian context (thus in the Letter of Mar Aba (544), the synods of 576, 585, 596, 605), and it is only in the document produced by the assembly of bishops that we first find the term qnoma used in a christological context, in the phrase the qnoma of His humanity47 – to be joined, in a related document, by its counterpart qnoma of the divinity48. This second document (which constitutes a reply to the theological opponents) also contains the phrase Christ is two natures and two qnome. It is to this development that I now turn.

The teaching of two qnome is primarily associated with the theologian Babai the Great49, and it was probably under his influence that we find this phraseology in the document of 612. For Babai, qnoma certainly does not have the sense of self-existent hypostasis. It is significant that the phrase he most frequently used is the two natures and their qnome. For him kyana, nature is the abstract, i.e. divinity, humanity, while qnoma is the individual instance of a particular kyana, an individuated nature. Such a qnoma does not necessarily have to exist independently, and in the case of Christ this is definitely not the case: here the qnoma of the divinity is Christ’s divinity, and the qnoma of the humanity is Christ’s humanity. Babai emphasizes on a number of occasions that these two qnome have been united since the very moment of conception of the one Son50.

It is unclear how this teaching concerning the two qnome emerged as the official doctrine of the Church of the East: it certainly did not originate with Babai (who improbably claimed it went back to Theodore of Mopsuestia). In any case qnome already feature in the report of the theological discussions with the Chalcedonians in Constantinople, arranged by Justinian (probably soon after 561)51, and a possible earlier witness is to be found in Homily 17, attributed to Narsai52. Though the attribution to Narsai cannot stand53, it is very possible that the homily belongs to the sixth century. In Babai’s own time there were certainly opposition to the formula of two qnome, as we know from the controversies surrounding Hnana, head of the School of Nisibis, and Sahdona, bishop of Mahoza d-Arewan (in Beth Garmai)54, furthermore, Babai recognized that many former Fathers had used qnoma in the sense of parsopa, and that this was still the case, so they say, in Byzantine territory; this, however, he goes on, should be avoided, in order to counter theopaschite teaching55.

Soteriology. Two main concerns can be identified as underlying the Church of the East’s insistence on duality in Christ, and its firm distinction between the two natures. First is the concern to maintain the utter transcendence of the divinity, and the abhorrence of the idea that suffering could touch the divinity (here it should be noted that suffering, hasha/πάθοϚ, evidently had overtones of fallen human nature for them). More important from our present point of view, is the second concern, which is a soteriological one. This concern has already come to our notice in the third of the passages quoted from Narsai. Exactly the same concern emerges clearly from a Letter on christology written c.68O by the Catholicos George56

“If Christ had not been truly human and accepted death in His humanity for our sake, – being innocent of sin – and had not God Who is in Him raised Him up, it would not have been possible for us sinners, condemned to death, to acquire hope of resurrection from the dead; for if it had been God who died and rose – in accordance with the wicked utterance of the blasphemers – then it would only be God, and those who are innocent, like Him, who would be held worthy of the resurrection, and He would have provided assurance of resurrection only to those who were consubstantial with Him (ܒܢܝ ܟܝܢܗ), and not to our guilty mortal nature.”

From these, and other passages, it is clear that, for the theologians of the Church of the East, salvation was effected for humanity through the human nature of Christ (expressed sometimes as ܒܪܢܫܐ the Man, rather than ܐ݉ܢܫܘܬܐ humanity): this was raised up in glory (Babai indeed Says, divinized)57 at the resurrection. Given this model, it is obvious that it is essential to lay the emphasis on the duality of the natures in Christ; at the same time, it becomes readily understandable why the Church of the East had such a horror of the Cyrilline teaching of the one incarnate nature of God the Word, seeing that this would wreck the hope of salvation for humanity. The Alexandrine conception of how salvation for humanity is effected was, of course, quite different: for them, what was essential was to express the full reality of the incarnation of God the Word, for what is not assumed is not saved. As a consequence of this understanding of salvation it was necessary to emphasize the aspect of oneness in Christ, since duality implied that God the Word had not become fully Man. For both poles of the christological spectrum Christ was completely God and completely Human, and consubstantial both with the Father and with humanity, but because they had two quite different conceptual models of how salvation for humanity was effected by Christ, they necessarily adopted two different christological formulations that on the surface are mutually contradictory, but which, at a much deeper level, were both trying to express, from different standpoints, the same ineffable mystery. If one keeps in mind the Church of the East’s view of how salvation is effected, it furthermore becomes obvious why the term θεοτοκοϚ/ܝܠܕܬ ܐܠܗܐ never came to be adopted in this Church: since salvation comes through the humanity, taken by God the Word from the Virgin, it is hardly appropriate to speak of her giving birth to God, since this would at best obscure, at worst imply the denial of, the reality of human salvation. With the Alexandrine understanding of salvation, on the other hand, the title simply emphasizes the full reality of the incarnation of God the Word, and so is entirely fitting.

Nestorius? I have deliberately left the question of Nestorius to the end of my paper. Already in the Middle Ages Abdisho complains about the injustice of the designation of the Orientals as Nestorians, pointing out that Nestorius was not their patriarch, and they did not know his language58. A very similar point was made by the present Catholicos, Mar Dinkha, at his consecration (in London) in1976: Nestorius was a Greek, and has nothing directly to do with the Church of the East.

In the theological polemic of the fifth and sixth centuries the term Nestorian was used as a way of denigrating one’s opponent, and to the miaphysites all dyophysites tended to be seen as Nestorians, or at best, crypto-Nestorians. It was a means of condemning by association, and accordingly the term in texts of that period meant little more than dyophysite, or at most, strict dyophysite. The question of Nestorius’ own teaching, of such great interest to modern scholars59, is actually of very little relevance to the Church of the East, for whom Nestorius is primarily a symbolic figure of someone who was a martyr to the Antiochene christlogical cause. This can be clearly seen from the earliest document from the Church of the East to refer to him, the verse homily on the Three Doctors by Narsai60. The three doctors in question are Diodore, Theodore and Nestorius. Narsai clearly knows something about Diodore, quite a lot about Theodore (whom he had clearly read in Syriac translation), but extremely little about. Nestorius. The only work of Nestorius to get into Syriac was his second apology, the Liber Heracleidis61, and this was only translated c.540 and had little influence on any Syriac writer apart from Babai. Nestorius does not receive a single mention in any of the fifth and sixth-century synods of the Church of the East, and the Anaphora under his name certainly does not belong to him.

Thus there exist two conflicting conceptions of Nestorius and Nestorianism: on the one hand, for both the Chalcedonian Churches and the Oriental Orthodox Churches Nestorius has traditionally been seen as an arch-heretic who preached two prosopa in Christ, while for the Church of the East he was little more than a name to be honoured on the grounds that he had suffered at Cyril`s hand for the cause of the Antiochene dyophysite christological tradition. Whatever may be the truth about the nature of Nestorius’ teaching, it is clear that the term Nestorian, like the term Monophysite, is open to two very different understandings, and so serves as an open invitation to misunderstanding. Accordingly it would seem imperative to drop both terms in connection with the non-Chalcedonian Churches to which they traditionally, and opprobriously, been applied by the Churches in the Chalcedonian tradition.

In modern times ecumenical dialogue between the Chalcedonies and non-Chalcedonian Churches has primarily been concentrated on discussions with the Oriental Orthodox Churches, that is, those belonging to the Alexandrine end of the christological spectrum. In this area notable advances in removing past misunderstandings on each side over the other’s christological teaching. The Church of the East, representing the opposite end of the spectrum, has, by contrast, been rather left out of consideration62. In very recent years, however, some attention has been paid to this matter in the Middle East Council of Churches (of which the Church of the East has not yet been accepted as a member), and the Pro Oriente Stiftung in Vienna has now initiated informal consultations on the christology of the Church of the East, at which representatives of all the Churches of Syriac liturgical tradition are present. A number of significant papers were presented at Pro Oriente’s consultation held in Vienna last June, and it is to be hoped that future meetings will continue to remove misunderstandings in due course produced concrete results.



1 `Abdisho`. Marganita III.4; the text is given in Assemani J. S. Bibliotheca Orientals, III.1, Rome, 1725. p. 354-355. In both Assemani`s Latin and in the English translation by Badger G.P. The Nestorians and their Rituals. Vol. II, L., 1852, p. 399-400, qnoma is most misleadingly translated as person. Regrettably this perverse rendering has also been adapted by certain more recent western scholars as well.

2 Edited with French translation by Chabot J. B. Synodicon Orientale. P., 1902. There is also a German translation by Brown O. Das Buch der Synhados oder Synodicon Orientale. Stuttgart-Wien. 1900 (reprinted Amsterdam, 1975). An English translation by M.J. Birnie is in preparation.

3 An English translation of these is provided in my: The Christology of the Church of the East in the Synods of the fifth to early seventh centuries // G. Dragas (ed.), Aksum-Thyateira; a Festschrift for Archbishop Methodios. L., 1985, p. 125-142, reprinted in my: Studies in Syriac Christianity. L., 1992, ch. XII.

4 Particularly relevant here are the Homilies on the Nativity, Epiphany, Passion, Resurrection and Ascension, edited with an English translation by F.G. McLeod in Patrologia Orientalis 40.1 (1979). Two other important homilies, no. 56 on the Dedication of the Church, and no. 81 on John 1:14, are available only in the rare photographic edition published by the Patriarchal Press (San Francisco, 1970), I, p. 581-95, and II, p. 206-18; an analysis of the homily on John 1:14, by J. Frishman, is shortly to be published in The Harp (Kottayam).

5 Edited with French translation by Guillaumont A. Justinien et l`Eglise de Perse // Dumbarton on Oaks Papers 23/24. 1969/70, p. 39-66.

6 Edited with Latin translation by A.Vaschalde, CSCO 79-80 = Scriptores Syri 34- 35 (1915). There is a very helpful general presentation of Babai’s christology by a Syro-Malankara scholar: Chediath G. The Christology of Mar Babai the Great, Kottayam, 1982; and important discussions by L. Abramowski in her; Die Christologie Babais des Grossen // [I] Symposium Syriacum (Orientalia Christiana Analecta 197), 1974, p. 219-245; and Babai der Grosse; christologische Probleme und ihre Losungen // Orientalia Christiana Periodica 41, 1975, p. 290-343. Unfortunately there are no reliable extant sources for the christological teaching of Babai`s theological opponent, Hnana.

7 Edited with French translation by Sako L. Lettre christologique du Patriarche syro-oriental Isho’yahb II de Gdala. Rome, 1983. Also of interest is the case of Maryrius, or Sahdona, who was deposed from his see as a result of his Christological teaching: see de Halleux A. La christologie de Martyrios/Sahdona dans l’evolution du nestorianisme // Orientalia Christiana Periodica 23, 1957.  p. 5-32.

8 Edited with Latin translation by R. Duval. Isho’yahb Patriarch. Liber Epistularum, CSCO 11-12 = Scriptores Syri 11-12 (1905). Isho’yahb III follows Babai in his Christology.

9 Letter to Mina, edited with Latin translation by J.B. Chabot, Synodicon Orientale (Paris, 1902),

p. 227-244 (tr. 490-514).

10 Edited with English translation by Abramowski L. and Goodman A. A Nestorian collection of Christological Texts, I-II Cambridge, 1972.

11 The standard work on the early history of the Church of the East remains Labourt J. Le christianisme dans l`empire perse sous la dynastie sassanide. P., 1904; supplemented by: Fiey J.-M. Jalons pour une histoire de l`église en Iraq // CSCO 310 (1970). A helpful general survey can he found in: Young W. G. Patriarch Shah, and Caliph. Rawalpindi, 1974. There is also a brief overview in my; Christians in Sasanian Empire: a case of divided loyalties// Studies in Church History 18, 1982, p. 1-19; reprinted in: Syriac Perspectives on Late Antiquity. L., 1984, ch. VI

12 There is an interesting study of this Council by a metropolitan of the Church of the

East, Mar Aprem, The Council of Ephesus (Trichur, 1978). For an important study by A. de Halleux on the first session of the Council, see his: La premiere session du Concile d’Ephese (22 juin 431) // Ephemerides THeologicae Lovanienses 59, 1993, p. 48-87.

13 Ed. Sako [n. 7], sections 42—49.

14 For this role of bishops, see Garsoian N. Le role de l’hierarchie chrétienne dans les rapports diplomatiques entre Byzance et les Sassanides // Revue des Etudes Armeniennes, NS 10, 1973, p. 119-38, reprinted in her: Armenia Between Byzantium and the Sassanians. L., 1985, ch. VIII; and Sako L. Le role de la hierarchie syriaque orientale dans les rapports diplomatiques entre le Perse et Byzance aux Ve-VIIe siècles. P., 1986).

15 Liber De Unione, p. 246.

16 On the School of Nisibis, see especially: Voobus A. The School of Nisibis // CSCO, Subsidia 26, 1965; also Wolska W. La topographie chretienne de Cosmas Indicopleustes. Theologie et science au. Vle siècle. P., 1962, ch. II Cosmas et l’ecole de Nisibe

17 These from the beginning have regularly condemned Eutyches’ position.

18 Or the more anglicized form henophysite (by analogy with henotheist), which I have used in: The Christology of the Church of the East…[n. 3].

19 See my: Clothing metaphors as a means of theological expression in Syriac tradition // M. Schmidt (ed.). Typus, Symbol, Allegorie bei den ostlichen Vatern und ihren Parallelen im Mittelalter. Regensburg, 1982, p. 11-38, reprinted in my Studies in Syriac Christinaity. L., 1992, ch. XI.

20 See Gribomont J. Le symbole de foi de Seleucie-Ctesiphon (410) // R.H. Fischer (ed.)., A Tribute to Arthur Voobus. Chicago, 1977, p. 283-294; and de Halleux A. Le symbole des eveques perses au synode de Seleucie-Ctesiphon (410) // G. Wiessner (ed.)., Erkenntnisse und Meinungen II (Gottinger Orientforschungen, Reihe Syriaca, 17), 1978, p. 161-190.

21 Philoxene de Mabbog. Commentaire du prologue johannique / ed. A. de Halleux; CSCO 380, Scriptores Syri 165, 1977, p. 53. For the background, see my: The resolution of the Philoxenian/Harklean problem // New Testament Textual Criticism: Essays in Honour of B.M. Metzger. Oxford, 1981, p. 325-343.

22 Flemming J. Akten der Ephesinischen Synode vom Jahre 449 Syrisch (Abhandlungen der Akademie der Wissnschaften in Gottingen, phil.-hist. KI., NF 15,1, Berlin, 1917, repr. Gottingen, 1970, S. 46.

23 Phillips G. the Doctrine of Addai. L., 1876, p. 19/20* (the English translation misleadingly renders argwana as vestment, rather than purple). On the Edessene milieu to which the Doctrine of Addai belongs, see my: Historical fiction in the fifth-century Edessa. The Teaching of Addai and some related texts // forthcoming in the proceedings of the Syriac Symposium held at Brown University in 1991.

24 E.g. Hymns on the Nativity 21:5, Hymns on Faith 91:2.

25 Synodicon Orientale, ed. Chabot [n. 2], p. 542; English translation [n. 3], p. 135.

26 Synodicon Orneitale, p. 113; English translation, p. 136. In his Liber de Unione [n. 6] Babai points out that the image of a garment and its wearer was intended to illustrate the voluntary character of the conjunction of the two natures, (p. 233), and to point to the existence of two kyane (p. 241).

27 I have tried to sketch out this development in my: From antagonism to assimilation: Syriac attitudes to Greek learning // N. Garsoian, T. Matthews and R. Thomson (eds.)., East of Byzantium: Syriac and Armenia in the Formative Period. Washington DC, 1982, p. 17-34, reprinted in my: Syriac Perspectives on Late Antiquity, ch. V.

28 See for further details my: Towards a history of Syriac translation // III Symposium Syriacum (Orientalia Christiana Analecta 221), 1983, p. 1-14, reprinted in my: Studies in Syriac Christianity, ch. X.

29 See de Halleux A. La philoxenienne du symbole // II Symposium Syriacum (Orientalia Christiana Analecta 205), 1978, p. 295-415; also Gribomont J. La catechese de Severe d’Antioche et le Credo // Parole de l’Orient 6/7, 1975/6, p. 125-158.

30 Babai uses the rlated phrase lbesh ‘nashutan, He put on our humanity (Liber de Unione, p. 48), though elsewhere he normally uses terminology of Greek origin.

31 See note 13.

32 Severi Antiocheni orations ad Nephalium / ed. J. Lebon, CSCO 119, Scriptores Syri 64, 1949, p. 16.

33 Thus Babai normally uses bar kyana (Liber de Unione, p. 202, 207, 264, etc.); bar kyaneh, alongside bar ituteh, features in the Synod of 585.

34 Narsai, Homily 56 (ed. Patriarchal Press), I, p. 594.

35 E.g. in his Commentary on John / ed. J.B. Chabot, CSCO 115 Scriptores Syri 62, 1940, p. 33. The phraseology also occurs in the Letter of Ibas, a document accepted at the Council of Chalcedon.

36 Narsai, Homily 56 (ed. Patriarchal Press), I, p. 588-589.

37 Narsai, Homily 81 (ed. Patriarchal Press), II, p. 209.

38 Babai, Liber de Unione, p. 126. Philoxenos polemicizes against this exegesis on a number of occasions; see further my: From Annunciation to Pentacost: the travels of a technical term // Eulogema: Studies in Honor of Robert Taft SJ (Studia Anselmiana 110), 1993, p. 71-91, esp. p. 75-76.

39 Narsai, Homily 81 (ed. Patriarchal Press), II, p. 212

40 Synodicon Orientale [n. 2], p. 54-55; English translation [n. 3], p. 133-134. W. Macomber, in his: The christology of the Synod of Seleucia-Ctesiphon AD 486 // Orientalia Christiana Periodica 24, 1958, p. 142-154, tends to interpret the phraseology inmalam partem, though he has to concede that it is also true that the words used can be taken as materially orthodox.

41 Thus even so great a scholar as W. de Vries, in his: Die syrisch-nestorianische Haltung zu Chalkedon // Das Konzil von Chalkedon, I, Wurzburg, 1951, S. 603, wrote Das offizielle Annahme des Nestorianismus durch die persische Kirche geschah auf der Synode von Seleukia des Jahres 486.

42 Synodicon Orientale, p. 97; English translation, p. 135.

43 Synodicon Orientale, p. 134; English translation, p. 136.

44 Synodicon Orientale, p. 195; English translation, p. 138-139.

45 Synodicon Orientale, p. 201; English translation, p. 140.

46 Synodicon Orientale, p. 565; English translation, p. 141.

47 Synodicon Orientale, p. 567; English translation, p. 141.

48 Synodicon Orientale, p. 575; English translation, p. 142.

49 See the literature cited in n. 6.

50 Thus Liber de Unione, p. 59f., 88f.

51 See n. 5; for a discussion of the date, see Lee A. D. Evagrius, Paul of Nisibis and the problem of loyalties in the mid-sixth century // Journal of Ecclesastical History 44, 1993, p. 569-585, esp. p. 576-577.

52 A. Mingana omits the passage in his edition (I, p. 282), but mentions it in his introduction, p. 10 n. 2: Two natures, it is said, and two qonme is our Lord, in one prosopon of the divinity and the humanity. Cp also the English translation by R. H. Connolly, The Liturgical Homilies of Narsai. Cambridge, 1909, p. 14.

53 See my: Diachronic aspects of Syriac word formation: an aid for dating anonymous texts // V Symposium Syriacum (Orientalia Christiana Analecta 236), 1990, p. 321-330, esp. p. 327-328. It is in fact possible to see from a passage of genuine Narsai how the two qnome teaching could have arisen in Syriac writers: in the Homily on the Nativity (ed. McLeod), lines 413-144, Narsai writes, with reference to John 1:14, It is possible for one to tabernacle in another in perfect love, but how is it possible for one to tabernacle in himself/in his/qnoma?.

54 For Sahdona, see the reference in note 7. The general context of the development of the two qnome teaching is well brought out by Reinink G. Tradition and the formation of the “Nestorian” identity in 6th-7th century Iraq // forthcoming in the proceedings of the Fourth Workshop (London, 1994) on Late Antiquity and Early Islam. At an unknown date the text of the Chalcedonian Definition of faith was tacitly altered so that it incorporated the Church of the East’s two qnome doctrine: see de Halleux A. // La falsification du symbole de Chalcadoine dans le Synodicon nestorien // Melanges offerts e J. Dauvillier. Toulouse, 1979, p. 375-384.

55 Babai, Liber de Unione, p. 305-306.

56 Synodicon Orientale, p. 237. The curious imagery of Christ’s body as a hostage which can be traced back to Aphrahat and Ephrem, likewise points to the central importance of Christ’s human nature in the Church of the East’s conception of salvation; for detals, see my: Christ “the Hostage”: a theme in the East Syriac liturgical tradition and its origin // H. C. Brennecke, E. L. Grasmuck and C. Markschies (eds.), Logos: Frestschrift fur Luise Abramowski (Beihefte zur ZNW 67), 1993, p. 472-485.

57 Babai. Liber de Unione…, p. 299.

58 See reference in n. 1.

59 An important recent study is given by de Halleux A. Nestorius. Histoire et doctrine // Irenikon 56, 1993, p. 38-51, 163-77.

60 Edited with French translation by F. Martin in Journal Asiatique IX.4 (1899), p. 446-492, and IX.15 (1900), p. 469-525.

61 On the various documents, not all by Nestorius, in the Liber Heracleidis, see Abramowski L. Untersuchungen zum Liber Heraclidis des Nestorius // CSCO, Subsidia 22, 1963.

62 An excellent and perceptive study of the christology of the Church of the East from an Orthodox point of view is given by D. Miller, in the Epilogue to The Ascetical Homilies of Saint Isaac the Syrian, translated by the Holy Transfiguration Monastery. Boston, 1984, p. 481-541.

The Doctrine of the Holy Trinity: Historical Development

By H.B. Mar Meelis Zaia, A.M.
Metropolitan of the Assyrian Church of the East
Archdiocese of Australia and New Zealand

In the Old Testament

Throughout the ages the Christian Church has always believed in God as three in ONE, and this belief is based on the Bible. Although the main evidence  for  the  doctrine  of  the  trinity  is  to  be  found  in  the  New Testament,  we  need  to  start  with  the  Old  Testament.  We must  never forget  that  the  New Testament  is  based  on  the  Old.    No  statement  of  belief  is complete,  unless  it  is  seen  within  the  context  of  the  whole  Bible, including the Old Testament.

When we study the Old Testament, one thing immediately stands out: the main emphasis is on the unity of God. As far as His Godhead is concerned He is alone, unique.   The oneness of God is the central confession of all Christians, as we recite  in the Nicene Creed of 325 AD,”We believe in One God”.

Careful  reading of the Old Testament shows  no indication  of the trinity itself. Yet there are several  remarkable aspects,  which definitely have to be taken into account, if we want to see the full picture of the Old Testament understanding of God.

As  we said  before, in the  Old  Testament,  the first  imperative  was to declare the existence of the ONE living and true God. And to this task the Old Testament is principally dedicated. And this principal is the fundamental faith of the Christian religion.

Hear, O! Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! (Deuteronomy:6:4)


Have we not  all  one  father?  Has not one  God  created  us? (Malachi 2:10)

But there are also passages where God speaks  of himself  in the Plural, especially  in the opening  pages of the Old Testament. Based on this, Christians  are taught to attribute the existence and persistence of all things to a threefold source. For example, there are passages where the Lord God, his Word and  his Spirit  are  brought  together  as in  the  narrative  of  the creation where God is seen to create by means of his Word and Spirit:

And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Then God said, “ Let there be light“; and there was light.  (Genesis 1:2-3)

Also, the next passages points in the same direction:

Then  God  said,  “ Let  us  make  man  in  our  image  according  to  Our likeness”  (Genesis I :26).

Then the Lord God said, “ Behold, the man has become one of Us”  (Genesis 3:22)

Other  references  to  the same  is Genesis 2:7

“Come,  let Us go down,  and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one

another‘s speech.


Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? (Isaiah 6:8)

The   above   references   are   a   striking   case   of   plural   and   singular interchanged,  suggesting plurality  in unity. In Genesis 18:1-17 we read “And he lift up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him: and when

he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground… “

The above incident is a striking one and the language is too, that God should manifest himself in the form of three.

There are many other passages where God and his Word and the Spirit are brought together as co-causes of effects.  In Isaiah 63:8-10 we read, “For  He said, “Surely  they are My people, children who will not lie. “So He became their Saviour.  In all their affliction He was afflicted, and the Angel  of  His  presence  saved  them:  in  His  love  and  in  His  pity  He redeemed them; and He bore them, and carried them all the days of old. But they  rebelled,  and grieved  His  Holy Spirit:  so  He turned  Himself against them as an enemy, and He fought against them”.

Here we have the three speakers, the covenant God of Israel (v.8), the angel of the presence (v.9) and the Spirit ‘grieved’  by their rebellion (v.10). both the creative activity of God and his government are, at a later stage, associated with the Word personified as “Wisdom” where St. Paul said in his first epistle to the Corinthians

“Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:24). As this verse of St Paul is derived from these verses in Proverb:

The LORD possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old. I was set up from everlasting,  from the beginning,  or ever the earth was. When there were no depths, I was brought forth; when there were no fountains  abounding   with  water.  Before  the  mountains  were  settled, before the hills was I brought  forth: While as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world. When he prepared  the heavens,  I was there: when he set a compass  upon the face  of  the  depth:   When  he  established  the  clouds  above:  when  he strengthened  the fountains  of  the  deep:  When  he gave  to  the  sea  his decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment: when he appointed  the  foundations  of  the  earth:  Then  I  was  by  him,  as  one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him;

As well as with the Spirit as the Dispenser of all blessings and the source of physical strength, courage, culture and government, as we learn from Exodus:

And  I  have  filled  him  with  the  spirit  of  God,   in  wisdom,  and  in understanding,  and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship.

And in Numbers  he added:  And the LORD came down in a cloud, and spake unto him, and took of the spirit that was upon him, and gave it unto the seventy elders: and it came to pass, that, when the spirit rested upon

them, they prophesied, and did not cease.

Also, in Judges he said “And the Spirit of the LORD came upon him, and he judged Israel, and went out to war: and the LORD delivered Chushanrishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand; and his hand prevailed against Chushanrishathaim.” (Judges 3:10)

The threefold  source revealed  in creation  becomes still more evident  in the unfolding of redemption. At an early stage there are the remarkable phenomena  connected  with  the  angel  of  the  Lord  who  receives  and accepts divine honour (Genesis 16:2-13) as in the story of Hagar and Ishmael. And also, in (Genesis 22:11-16) the story of Abraham’s  sacrifice on the mountaintop in the land of Moriah.

In other passages the angel of the Lord not only bears the divine  name, but also has divine dignity and power, dispenses divine deliverance, and accepts  homage  and  adoration  proper  only  to GOD.  The Messiah  has deity ascribed to him, even when he is regarded as a person distinct from God “Therefore  the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive,  and bear a son,  and shall call his name  Immanuel.”

(Isaiah 7:14)

And also in (Isaiah 9:6) “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government  shall be upon his shoulder:  and his name shall be called  Wonderful,  Counsellor,  The mighty God, The everlasting  Father, The Prince of Peace. “

And of the Son we hear King David in his Psalms “The LORD said to my Lord, Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool. (Psalm 110:1)

The Spirit of God is also given prominence in connection with revelation and  redemption,  and  is  assigned  his  office  in  the  equipment  of  the Messiah  for his work (Isaiah 11 :2) “And  the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,  the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD;

And in (Isaiah 42: I) Behold!  My Servant,  whom I uphold; My Elect, One in whom My soul delights!  I have put My Spirit upon Him: He bring forth justice to the Gentiles.

And in (Isaiah 61:1) “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me; because the LORD has anointed  Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,  to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;”

Thus the God who revealed himself objectively through the Angel­ Messenger  revealed himself subjectively  in and through the Spirit, the Dispenser of all blessings and gifts within the sphere of redemption. The threefold Aaronic blessing in (Numbers 6:24) must also be noted as the prototype of the New Testament apostolic  blessing.

“The LORD bless you, and keep you: The LORD make His face shine upon you, and be gracious unto you: The LORD lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.”

In the New Testament:

Every Old Testament incident yields some New Testament truth.

By way of contrast it must be remembered that the Old Testament was written  before  the revelation  of  the doctrine  of the Trinity was  clearly given, and the New Testament after it.  In the New Testament it was given particularly in the incarnation  of God the Son, and the outpouring  of the Holy Spirit.   But however dim the light in old dispensation; the Father, Son and Holy Spirit of the New Testament are the same as in the Old Testament.

Before the advent of Christ, the Holy Spirit came into the consciousness of God-fearing  men in a degree that was not known since the close of Malachi ‘s prophetic ministry, more especially John the Baptist.  He called for repentance toward God, faith in the coming Messiah, and spoke of baptism of the Holy Spirit, of which his baptism with water was a symbol (Matthew  3:11).

“ I indeed baptise you with water unto repentance,  but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals  I am not worthy  to carry,  He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”

So where do we find the epochs of Trinitarian revelation  in the New Testament?

1: The Annunciation: The agency of the Trinity in the incarnation was disclosed  to Mary in the angelic annunciation that the Holy Spirit  would come upon her, the power of the Most High would overshadow  her and the child born of her would be called the Son of God (Luke 1:35). Thus the Father and the Spirit were disclosed as operating in the incarnation of the Son.

And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow  you; therefore,  also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.”

2: In the baptism of Christ: Trinity can be clearly distinguished, the Son is  being  baptised,  the  Father  speaking   from  heaven,  and  the  Spirit descending  in the objective  symbol of a dove. “And Jesus, when he was baptised, went up straightway  out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened  unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending  like a dove, and lighting  upon him: And lo a voice from heaven,  saying,  This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3: 16-17)

3: The teaching of Jesus: the teaching of Jesus Christ is Trinitarian throughout.  He spoke of the Father who sent him. Of himself as the One who reveals  the Father,  and the Spirit  as the One by whom He and the Father work. We find many references  to the latter in (John 14:7-9). In this indicates  Christ  deity,  his  pre-existence   and  the  unity  of  the  three underlying characteristic  of the divine in one nature of God Almighty.

If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also: and from now on you have known Him, and have seen Him. Philip said to him, Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficient for us. Jesus said to him, Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father, so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father? “ Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works.  Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves”

And of the Holy Spirit He said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that may abide with you forever.” (John 14:15-16)

The Helper here indicates to the Holy Spirit which was poured  upon the apostles on the day of Pentecost:  “Now  when the Day of Pentecost had fully  come, they  were  all  with one accord  in one  place,  And suddenly there  came a sound  from  heaven,  as of a rushing  mighty  wind,  and it filled the whole house where  they were sitting.    Then there appeared  to them divided tongues,  as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (Acts 2:1-4)

4: The commission of the Risen Lord . Christ instructs his disciples to go into the whole world with his message and baptize them in the name of the  Father  and of the Son  and  of the Holy Spirit. It is significant the name “Baptism” is one  but within  the bounds  of the one name  there is three distinct persons.

The  Christian  Church  is founded  on  the  doctrine  of  the  Trinity.  This evident,  as said before, in the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost.  This outpouring  brought the personality of the Spirit into a greater prominence and at the same time shed light anew from the Spirit upon the Son,

Therefore, in the universal Church we find the apostolic benediction interpreting  the deeper  meaning  of  the  Trinity  in Christian  experience “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God the Father and the fellowship  of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Corinthians 13:14)

The doctrine  of Trinity  in the Christian  Church  is understood  to refer to God to be ONE God in his essential  being, but that in his being there are three  Persons,  yet so  as  not  to form  separate  and  distinct  individuals. They  are  three  modes  or  forms  in  which  the  divine essence  exists.

‘Person’ is, however, an imperfect expression of the truth inasmuch as the term denotes  to us a separate  rational and  moral  individual.  But  in the being of God there are not three individuals, but three personal self­ distinctions  within  the ONE  divine  essence. Then  again, personality  in man   implies   independence  of  will,  actions   and   feelings   leading   to behaviour peculiar to the person.   This cannot be thought  of in connection with the Trinity. In the Trinity, each person is self-conscious and self­ directing, yet never acting independently or in opposition.

When we say that God is a Unity we mean that, though God is in himself a threefold  centre of  life,  his life is not split  into three. He is ONE  in essence, in personality  and in will. When we say that God is a Trinity in Unity, we mean that there is a unity in diversity,  and that the diversity manifests itself in persons, in characteristics  and in operations. In them there is perfect equality in nature, honour and dignity.

Fatherhood  belongs to the very essence of the first Person and it was so from all eternity.  It is personal property of God ‘from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named (Ephesians 3:15)

The Son is called the ‘only begotten’ to suggest uniqueness. Christ always claimed for himself a unique relationship  to God as Father. (John 5:19)

“For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in himself’’

As in Genesis 18:2-17,  the story suggests the Trinity of the Godhead. Here we learn that the whole Trinity is interested and exercised in seeking to bless and save man.  “And  he lift up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him: and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground…”

The Father loved, and sent His Son; the Son loved, and gave Himself up to the death to redeem; the Spirit loved, and came to make His abode in the believing   hearts. This threefold salvation is summed up in the benediction. “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God the Father  and the fellowship  of the  Holy Spirit  be with  you all”  (2 Corinthians 13:14)

The Spirit  is revealed as the One who alone knows the depths of God’s nature: For the Spirit searches everything,  even the depths  of God … no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God

(1 Corinthians 2:10).

This is saying that the Spirit is just God himself in the innermost essence of His being.

The  doctrine  of  Trinity  arose  as  the  spontaneous  expression   of  the Christian experience.   The early Christians, knew themselves to be reconciled  to  God  the  father,  and  that  the  reconciliation  was  and  is secured for them by atoning work of the Son, and that it was mediated to them as an experience  by the Holy Spirit.  Thus the Trinity was and still is a fact before it was a doctrine, but in order to preserve it in the creedal faith of the Church the doctrine had to be formulated.

It is true that Christianity speaks of the Father as the First Person, and of the Son as the Second Person, and of the Holy Spirit as the Third Person; but “first,” “second,” “third” here do not represent a time order-rather the order of necessary relationship.

From the above we learnt that God is Wise and Living.   Now, he who is wise  discerns  because  of  his  wisdom;  and  he who  is living  is  living because he has life.  This is the mystery of the Trinity, which Christians confess of that Adorable Nature, Mind, Wisdom and Life.   Three co­-essential properties in One, and One who is glorified in three properties. The Mind has called Father and Begetter, because He is the Cause of all, and  First.    The Son  has  called  Wisdom  and  Begotten, because  He is begotten of the Mind, and by Him everything was made and created.  The Life has called, the Holy Spirit and Proceeding, because there is no other Holy Spirit but He.  He who is Holy is unchangeable.   Thus, these three properties are consubstantial.

Therefore, the implications of the doctrine of Trinity are vitally important not only for Christian theology, but for Christian experience and life.

Source and Analysis of the Nicene Creed

We believe:

Acts 15:11 – But we believe that we shall be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will

John 16:30 – Now we know that you know all things, and need none to question you; by this we believe that you came from God.

In one God:

Malachi 2:10 – Have we not all one father? Has not one God created us? Why then are we faithless to one another, profaning the covenant of our fathers?

Ephesians 4:6 – one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all.

The Father Almighty:

Ephesians 6:23 – Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Genesis 35:11 – And God said to him, “I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall spring from you.

Maker of all things:

Genesis 14:22 – But Abram said to the king of Sodom, “I have sworn to the LORD God Most High, maker of heaven and earth.

Hebrews 11:10 – For he looked forward to the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

Isaiah 44:24 – Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, who formed you from the womb: “I am the LORD, who made all things, who stretched out the heavens alone, who spread out the earth–Who was with me?

Ephesians 3:9 – and to make all men see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things.

Visible and Invisible:

Colossians 1:16 – for in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities–all things were created through him and for him.

And (we believe) in one Lord Jesus Christ:

Acts 11:17 – If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?

Corinthians 1:3 – Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort.

The Son of God:

Matthew 14:33 – And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.

1 John 4:15 – Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.

The Only Begotten:

Psalms 2:7 – I will tell of the decree of the LORD: He said to me, “You are my son, today I have begotten you.

Hebrews 1:5 – For to what angel did God ever say, “Thou art my Son, today I have begotten thee”? Or again, “I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son”?

The First Born of all created:

Colossians 1:15 – He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation.

Hebrews 1:6 – And again, when he brings the first-born into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.

Begotten of His Father before all worlds and not made:

Hebrews 5:5 – So also Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him, “Thou art my Son, today I have begotten thee.”

Matthew 16:27 – For the Son of man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay every man for what he has done.

John 1:10 – He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world knew him not.

Mark 14:58 – “I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.”

Very God of Very God:

John 1:1 – In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

1 John 5:20 – And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, to know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.

John 20:28 – Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!

Of one essence with His Father:

Revelation 1:8 – “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.

Isaiah 44:6 – Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: “I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god.

Revelation 1:17 – When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand upon me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last,

Philippians 2:6 – who, though he (Jesus) was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped.

Colossians 2:9 – For in him (Jesus) the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily.

John 10:38 – but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.

By whose hands the worlds were was established and everything was created:

John 1:3 – all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.

John 1:10 – He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world knew him not.

Revelation 4:11 – “Worthy art thou, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power, for thou didst create all things, and by thy will they existed and were created.

Who for us men and for our salvation came down form heaven:

John 6:38 – For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me.

John 6:41 – The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, “I am the bread which came down from heaven.

John 3:13 – No one has ascended into heaven but he who descended from heaven, the Son of man.

John 6:42 – They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?

Titus 2:11 – For the grace of God has appeared for the salvation of all men

Luke 1:77 – to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins.

Timothy 2:10 – Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain salvation in Christ Jesus with its eternal glory.

And was incarnated by the Holy Spirit:

Matthew 1:18 – Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit.

Matthew 1:20 – But as he considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.

And became man and was conceived and born of Virgin Mary:

Isaiah 7:14 – Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Imman’u-el.

Matthew 1:16 – and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.

Luke 1:27 – to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.

He suffered and was crucified in the days of Pontius Pilate:

Acts 4:27 – for truly in this city there were gathered together against thy holy servant Jesus, whom thou didst anoint, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel,

Matthew 16:21 – From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.

Matthew 27:26 – Then he released for them Barab’bas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified.

Acts 2:36 – Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.

He was buried and He rose again on the third day (first day of the week – Sunday):

Mark 15:46 – And he bought a linen shroud, and taking Him (Jesus) down, wrapped Him in the linen shroud, and laid Him in a tomb which had been hewn out of the rock; and he rolled a stone against the door of the tomb.

Mark 16:9 – Now when He (Jesus) rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom He had cast out seven demons.

Luke 24:5-8 – and as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and on the third day rise.” And they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest.

Matthew 16:21 – From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.

Matthew 28:1 – Now after the sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Mag’dalene and the other Mary went to see the sepulcher.

As it is written and ascended into Heaven and sat on the right hand of His Father:

John 20:17 – Jesus said to her, “Do not hold me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brethren and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”

Mark 16:19 – So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God.

And He shall come again to judge the dead and the living:

John 5:22 – The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son.

Acts 10:42 – And he commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that he (Jesus) is the one ordained by God to be judge of the living and the dead.

And (we believe) in one Holy Spirit, the spirit of truth:

Luke 12:12 – for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”

Acts 1:5 – for John baptized with water, but before many days you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

Titus 3:5 – he saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit.

John 14:17 – even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him; you know him, for he dwells with you, and will be in you.

Who proceedeth from the Father, the life-giving Spirit:

Luke 11:13 – If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

John 15:26 – But when the Counsellor comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness to me;

Corinthians 15:45 – Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.

And (we believe) in one Holy Apostolic and Catholic (universal) Church:

Ephesians 2:20 – built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone.

Ephesians 5:25-27 – Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the church to himself in splendour, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

Matthew 28:19 – Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

And we confess one Baptism for the remission of sins:

Mark 1:4 – John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

Ephesians 4:5 – one Lord, one faith, one baptism.

Peter 3:21 – Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Acts 2:38 – And Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

And the resurrection of our bodies and the life for ever and ever:

Romans 6:3-5 – Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.

Corinthians 15:12-14 – Now if Christ is preached as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised; if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.

Corinthians 15:21 – For as by a man (Adam) came death, by a man (Jesus) has come also the resurrection of the dead.

John 3:16 – For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

John 6:47 – Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life.

Romans 6:22 – But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the return you get is sanctification and its end, eternal life.

Jude 1:21 – keep yourselves in the love of God; wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.


In the sixth century AD, Mar Babai wrote the Teshbokhta or (Hymn of Praise) explaining the theology of the Assyrian Church. He Writes:

The Theology of the Church of the East has been stated briefly and clearly in the following “Hymn of Praise (TESHBOKHTA)”  Composed by Mar Babai the Great in the sixth century A.D.,  a noted theologian of the Church

One is Christ the Son of God,

Worshiped by all in two natures;

In His Godhead begotten of the Father,

Without beginning before all time;

In His humanity born of Mary,

In the fullness of time, in a body united;

Neither His Godhead is of the nature of the mother,

Nor His humanity of the nature of the Father;

The natures are preserved in their Qnumas*,

In one person of one Sonship.

And as the Godhead is three substances in one nature,

Likewise the Sonship of the Son is in two natures, one person.

So the Holy Church has taught.

The Existence of God

By the Late Lector Dennis Mirza


Atheists cannot argue that God does not exist, because they cannot demonstrate the non-existence of God. Instead, they take a more Agnostic view, and can argue that unless they see God, there is no proof for His existence. The famous Russian astronaut Yuri Gagaran orbited the Earth in 1961. Upon his return one of the first statements he made was that he searched for God and never found Him. I would ask him, “Have you searched around Pluto and perhaps other Galaxies? Maybe God is there!” If you have to physically see God to be convinced and believe His existence, then you cannot confidently state that “God does not exist” just because you haven’t seen Him.    

We are constantly challenged by Agnostics and other sceptics to prove that God exists.

There are several reasons as to why many people refuse to believe in God. The most obvious is they have doubts due to not physically seeing Him. People in general don’t like to be in submission and obedient to anyone. Most people deny His existence because of the conviction of the pleasure of sin in their lives; Some claim that there is a “power out there” but deny to call Him “God”; and yet there are others who claim to believe in God, but they live as though He does not exist. How can you be sure whether or not there is a God? The answer can be given in three parts: Firstly, all people have an inner sense of God; secondly, we believe the evidence that is found in the Scriptures; and thirdly, that is evidence that points out from Creation.

Due to the advancement of science and technology over recent decades, man has made it a principle for himself to believe in something only when it is proven by sight and/or feeling. For this reason faith in God is diminishing.

As the world grows further away from faith in God, it is becoming difficult for a vast majority of people from many nations to believe in something that they cannot see, touch, and feel. The Bible claims that all people have a sense that God exists but it’s because of wickedness and the desire for sin there are those who claim, “There is no God”.

Romans 1:18-20

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

Psalm 10:4

In his pride the wicked does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.

Psalm 14:1

The fool in says in his heart, “There is no God.”

Anyone who genuinely searches for God does find Him. They acknowledge His existence through various ways. Some find Him through calamities, sickness and suffering; others through wealth and materialism; some through poverty and turmoil; some through academic interests; and some through their cultural and traditional values. God is not restricted to only one or two sources. His ways and methods are invisible and mysterious. It is certain that if anyone seeks His existence earnestly, they will find Him.    

1. The Evidence from Moral and Conscience

Man is born with an inner belief of a Supreme Being. Every person admits the existence of a “Being” with supernatural intelligence and powers that supersede our knowledge and ability. Even the Agnostic and Sceptic call their god “mother-earth” or “mother-nature”. It is sad to hear at times Christians also use these ludicrous terminologies. Is it because they are ashamed of God? Or maybe they do not want any confrontation and ill-feeling in the ‘political correctness’ and ‘discriminatory laws’ that we have today? It is important therefore to grow in the knowledge of God through the studying of the Scriptures so that we, as Christians will always be prepared to give the right answers, “…Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” (1 Peter 3:15)    


Romans 2:14-15

Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.

“Compelling evidence that points to the existence of God is our moral experience. Morality is an essential part of our human fabric. The very fact that humans believe in a high and just moral standard is conclusive due to the existence of God. It is because of the existence of God that humans experience moral conviction. No human is possible without subscribing to moral values. Everyday we observe politicians, doctors, lawyers, psychologists, judges, police, humanitarians, and citizens of all nations arguing for justice, fairness, equality, tolerance, honesty, responsibility, accountability, civil rights, human rights, women’s rights etc. We believe that it is right to treat all people with equal right. We condemn racism, rape, violence, child abuse, war, corruption, murder, treason, betrayal, abortion and other behaviour as evil and wrong. The reality of our moral commitment is unavoidable: we live in a moral universe.”1

If our conscience that is given to us by God did not direct us to know and understand the difference between good and bad, right and wrong, then humanity would have been subject to chaos resulting in a world no different to that of animals, where only the strong and fit would survive.

Paul in Athens amongst many Philosophers:

Acts 17:23

For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.

Conscience told the Athenians that there was a God even though they did not know Him personally. Sceptics who claim that their conscience does not tell them about God are people who have suppressed and silenced their conscience by their disbelief only for the reasons of selfish gratification. Many people who sternly deny the existence of God are afraid to face the responsibility of being accountable to Him after death.

Romans 1:18-19

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.

“To look up into the skies and observe the universe and claim that there is No God because we cannot see Him, is as ridiculous as seeing a passenger airline fly over us and saying it is pilotless because we cannot see the pilot”. 2

2. The Evidence from Scripture 

The evidence that God exists is found throughout the Bible.

Psalm 19:1

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

The beauty and glory of creation; the heavens; and all that we can see points to a “Creator” – God.

Romans 1:20

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

Creation even teaches us about the sovereignty and eternal power of God,

Job 26:7

He spreads out the northern skies over empty space; he suspends the earth over nothing.

The Earth “Hangs” upon nothing.

Scholars claim that the Old Testament book of Job was written approximately 1500 BC. The main point that is made in this verse is that some 1500 years BC we were told that God “HANGS” the Earth on Nothing! The Earth is hanging out in empty space and is not placed on any foundation. While Believers were informed by their God that the Earth was hanging out there in the empty universe, modern day sceptic Scientists never knew of this fact until some 450 years ago. They believed that the Earth was flat and had its foundations and somehow everything else like the sun, stars, moon, and planets revolved around it.

Job 38:4-5

Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundations? Tell me, if you understand.

Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know. Who stretched a measuring line across it?   

‘Measuring line’ across the Earth?

The Earth’s Northern and Southern hemisphere’s are separated by The Equator. In approximately 1500 BC, the Bible informs us of this separation and calls it, “measuring line”. It is set at zero degrees exactly across the centre of the Earth’s circumference dividing it into equal parts. One of its main purposes is that seasons are set by it. Whatever season it is in the Northern hemisphere, the opposite season is in the Southern hemisphere. It creates order for seasons. It also does serve for other purposes. Could this “measuring line” – The Equator, perfectly situated upon the centre of the Earth at zero degrees Longitude have come as a result of the “Big Bang Theory?” Could the revolving of accumulated particles of dust and debris in the outer space that’s in a state of imperfection, come ever to a formation of a Planet and function perfectly in its design and order even if the process ran a course of a Quadrillion (1015) years? Can any perfection in whatsoever form exist as a result at any imperfection? A young child will even tell you, “Only in Cartoons!”

More on this point is written in point 3 – “The Evidence from Cosmology”.

Isaiah 40:22

He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth.

The book of Isaiah was written around 750 BC. Isaiah records that the Earth is a globe. The word ‘circle’ in this verse means ‘globular’ not ‘a flat circle’ as some have commented to be.

It is recorded that the Greek philosopher Aristotle (384-322 BC) argued in his writings that the Earth was spherical, because of the circular shadow it cast on the Moon during a lunar eclipse.

In approximately 1500AD after sailing around the globe, Christopher Columbus discovered the Earth was round. Isaiah was no mathematician, nor a philosopher and certainly no sailor, but he wrote some 2750 years ago that God is seated and enthroned upon His global creation, Earth.

There are numerous verses and passages we can look at throughout the Bible to prove the existence of God. The person who accepts the Scriptures will readily acknowledge the existence of God. Paul does state that “All Scripture is inspired by God and it is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God can be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16). However, people will not accept the Bible as today the authentic word of God. The Sceptic of this century demands evidence of the existence of God from other sources other than the Bible.

3. The Evidence from Cosmology

The Cosmological argument is the study of the existence and function of the universe. Everything that we see has a cause and a point of existence. We see the world and study the universe. It must have come from somewhere. Somebody or something must have been the cause for it to come into existence at a point in time. We look at everything the eye can see and know that there is a Designer who formed it. Cotton jumpers do not come into existence as a result of a cyclone that whirls through a cotton farm. We look at our watch and know that at one point in time someone sat down and carefully studied and planned to create a watch. Do the Sceptics believe that by placing some metal fragments in a jar then shaking the jar for billions of years will create a watch perfect in shape and size which works in harmony in accordance to the rotation of the Earth, Moon and Universe that rotate around the Sun? Can ever the Sceptic believe in such a Theory? What is the Mathematical probability of such a thing to come into existence? Impossible is the answer! We can only witness such things in cartoons. Nothing can be created from disorder, but everything created comes from an orderly Designer.

The Apostle Paul speaking to the Greek philosophers of his day argued that the existence of the universe provided good and sufficient reason to trust in the existence of God:

Acts 17:24, 25, 28

The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. For in him we live and move and have our being. As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’

18th Century French writer and philosopher Voltaire quoted, “You see many stars at night in the sky but find them not when the sun rises; can you say that there are no stars in the heaven of day? So, O man! because you behold not God in the days of your ignorance, say not that there is no God.”

The universe is a remarkable evidence of a Creator. Its very existence points out to the reality of an omnipotent God. King David understood this truth when he wrote 19:1, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”

The perfect creation of the universe and its design points to the evidence of an intelligent purpose. Through its design, beauty, complexity, harmony and order, Man is able to discover God and reside in the universe enjoying its benefits. “A watch not only exists but it has a designer who created it for a specific purpose. A watch was not designed for mosquitoes to live in it. It was designed by a keen intelligent mind for the purpose of accurately telling the time”.3

Voltaire also supports the existence of God by the design of the watch, “I shall always be convinced that a watch-maker, and a universe proves a God.”

An examination of the universe and the things that it comprises both large and small shows that each is designed by an intelligent mind for a specific purpose. Albert Einstein quoted, “The mathematical precision of the universe reveals the mathematical mind of God.”

Astrophysicists declare that our Planet is incredibly unique in its position, function and existence.

➢ It is located at the right distance from the sun for human life to exist. If it were any closer it would be too hot, if further away, it would be too cold.

➢ Its tilt at 23.5 degrees provides gravity. If the tilt were more or less, then there would be no gravity.

➢ It rotates on its axis once every 24 hours = One Day.

➢ 365 times in one Year

➢ And once around the Sun = One Year.

➢ The rotation provides Day/Night and Seasons created for Man’s purposes.

➢ Consists of many elements, minerals and other resources for Man’s sustenance.

➢ Its design and operations work all together in harmony and order.

All this harmony and order could never have resulted into existence by ‘chance’ or a ‘big-bang’. That’s why they call it the “big bang theory” because a theory is not factual.

One of the greatest minds of Science, if not the greatest scientist, Sir Isaac Newton declared, “When I look at the solar system, I see the Earth at the right distance from the Sun to receive the proper amount of heat and light. This did not happen by chance.”

After returning from his flight around the Moon with Apollo 8, Astronaut Frank Borman was questioned by a reporter. The reporter pointed out that the Soviet cosmonaut who recently returned from space flight said that he did not see God or Angels on his flight. “Did you see God?” questioned the reporter. To his question, Frank Borman gave a brilliant response, “No, I did not see God either, but I saw His Evidence.” Brilliant Answer!


The only sensible answer to the explanation of our existence and the existence of the world and universe is the existence of an intelligent Being Who created it and Whom we call God.

In this modern day world, Atheism somehow seems to be “cool”. Atheism only leads to confusion and despair as it never provides solid and sound answers built on fact and truth. It only leads to an imbalanced life without answers. Ultimately, the belief in God and in particular in Christianity is not a confusing philosophy. It is the most simplistic of beliefs. It requires faith to believe and acceptance of the truths of the Scriptures. This is certainly not blind faith, but faith that is built upon evidence, logic, and truth.

God Bless



1. Christianity for Sceptics (Steve Kumar) page 24.

2. Christianity for Sceptics (Steve Kumar)

3. Christianity for Sceptics (Steve Kumar)

An Introduction to the Divine Revelation

Reverend Fr. Dr. George Toma


The doctrine of the Apostolic Faith came from Divine Revelation. “Divine Revelation” is a doctrine which God Himself has revealed to mankind. God revealed the doctrine of apostolic faith to mankind so that mankind will rightly serve Him and will worthily give to Him due honor and praise.

God made His revelation known to all mankind. Because it is necessary to all of humankind, alike; and, it is capable to give salvation to all.  However, since all humankind are not capable to receive a divine revelation immediately from God, He has utilized certain persons, or gifted ones as heralds of this revelation in order to deliver it to all who desire it and wholeheartedly receive it.

Owing to sinful impurity of both body and soul all men are not capable of receiving the “Divine Revelation” from God. Adam, Noah, Abraham, Melchizedek, Moses and other prophets; received the beginnings of the Divine Revelation and they in turn proclaimed the same to humankind; but, it was The Incarnate Son of God our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, who brought the revelation to earth in its fullness and perfection.

The Divine Revelation has been spread throughout the whole world by His great commission to the Holy Apostles, which is:

 “ . . . Go, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” (Matthew 28:19-20).

St Paul the apostle to gentiles teaches that God the father at the end of time revealed His Divine Revelation to mankind through His only begotten son Jesus Christ. It is written:

“God, who in sundry times and in diverse manner, spoke to us in times past unto The Father, by the Prophets, has in these last days spoken unto us by His Son, Whom He has appointed heir of all things, by Whom also, He made the worlds” (Hebrews 1:1-2)

Again Saint Paul the Apostle says:  God has revealed the Divine Revelation unto the Holy Apostles by the Holy Spirit. It is written:

 “. . . but we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world, unto our glory; which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory; but God has revealed them unto us by His Spirit, for the Spirit searches all things, yea, the deep things of God.”  (I Corinthians 2:7, 8, 10)

According to St John the Evangelist, the only Begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father has revealed God to mankind. It is written:

 “ . . . No man has seen God at anytime; the Only Begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.”  (John 1:18)

Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ Himself, by His own Divine Lips declared and confirmed that He has revealed the fullness of divine revelation to mankind. It is written:

“All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”  (Matthew 11:27)

 It is possible for man to have some knowledge of God. This knowledge of God can be gained by the consideration or contemplation upon the creation (such as the trees, flowers, the cosmos, etc); however, this knowledge is imperfect and not sufficient to reveal the totality of God.  It will only serve as a preparation for faith; or, as a help towards learning about God and His divine revelation.  Saint Paul says:

“Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse;” (Romans 1:20)

Saint John Chrysostom regarding knowing God from His creation says:

“The Prophets also said: “The heavens declare the glory of God (Psalms 19:1).Will the heathens say at the judgement that they were ignorant of God? Did they not hear the heaven sending forth a voice while a well ordered harmony of all things spoke out more clearly than a trumpet?  Did you not see the hours of night and day remaining constantly unmoved, the good order of winter, spring and the other seasons remaining both fixed and unmoved? …. Yet God did not set so great a system of teaching before the heathen in order to deprive them of any excuse but so that they might come to know Him. It was by their failure to recognize Him that they deprived themselves of every excuse.” (Homilies on Romans Chapter 3)

St Luke writes:

“From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him though indeed he is not far from each one of us. For “In him we live and move and have our being”; as even some of your own poets have said, “For we too are his offspring” (Acts 17:26-28)

Saint Basil agrees with the teachings of the Sacred Scriptures and the commentaries of the Church fathers that we can learn from creations about the existence of God.  It is written:

“With regard to faith in God, it is preceded by the idea that God IS which idea we get from the things which have been created.  Attentively, examining the creation of the world, we perceive that God is wise, powerful, and good; we perceive, also, His invisible properties.  By these means we are led to acknowledge Him as the Supreme Ruler.  Seeing that God is the Creator of the whole world, and we form a part of the world, it follows that God is also our creator.  On this knowledge follows faith, and on faith adoration.”  (Basil. Magn. Epist 2:32)

By meditating at the beauty of creation, how everything has been working harmoniously since the beginning we need to confess that it must have a creator who is not just created it and rested but rather He has been supervising it constantly.  Saint John of Damascus says:

“The very creation, by its harmony and ordering, proclaims the majesty of the divine nature.”(Orthodox Faith 1.1)


Written by Reverend Fr. Dr. George Toma

Assyrian Church of the East

Lent 2016