This week's episode of In Our Time on BBC Radio 4 features a discussion of the Christian concept of the Trinity.
Moderator Melvyn Bragg is joined by Janet Soskice, Professor of Philosophical Theology at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of Jesus College; Martin Palmer, Director of the International Consultancy on Religion, Education, and Culture; The Reverend Graham Ward, Regius Professor of Divinity at the University of Oxford and a Canon of Christ Church.
During the show, The Athanasian Creed (c. late 400s-early 600s) is mentioned several times. Below is its first part that stresses the equality of the "persons" of the triune God of Christianity. The Nicene Creed (A. D. 325) is far better known and more often recited by liturgical Christian traditions of both the East and West.
We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, the maker of heaven and earth, of things visible and invisible.And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the begotten of God the Father, the Only-begotten, that is of the essence of the Father.God of God, Light of Light, true God of true God, begotten and not made; of the very same nature of the Father, by Whom all things came into being, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible.
From the Athanasian Creed:
And the catholic faith is this--
That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; Neither confounding the Persons; nor dividing the Essence.
For there is one Person of the Father; another of the Son; and another of the Holy Ghost.
But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one; the Glory equal, the Majesty coeternal.
Such as the Father is; such is the Son; and such is the Holy Ghost.
The Father uncreated; the Son uncreated; and the Holy Ghost uncreated.
The Father unlimited; the Son unlimited; and the Holy Ghost unlimited.
The Father eternal; the Son eternal; and the Holy Ghost eternal. And yet they are not three eternals; but one eternal.
As also there are not three uncreated; nor three infinites, but one uncreated; and one infinite.
So likewise the Father is Almighty; the Son Almighty; and the Holy Ghost Almighty. And yet they are not three Almighties; but one Almighty.
So the Father is God; the Son is God; and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet they are not three Gods; but one God.
So likewise the Father is Lord; the Son Lord; and the Holy Ghost Lord. And yet not three Lords; but one Lord.
For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity; to acknowledge every Person by himself to be God and Lord; So are we forbidden by the catholic religion; to say, There are three Gods, or three Lords.
The Father is made of none; neither created, nor begotten.
The Son is of the Father alone; not made, nor created; but begotten. The Holy Ghost is of the Father and of the Son; neither made, nor created, nor begotten; but proceeding.
So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Ghost, not three Holy Ghosts.
And in this Trinity none is before, or after another; none is greater, or less than another. But the whole three Persons are coeternal, and coequal.
So that in all things, as aforesaid; the Unity in Trinity, and the Trinity in Unity, is to be worshipped.
He therefore that will be saved, let him thus think of the Trinity.
Image #1: an interlaced triqueta (not discussed in the IOT episode), by some called the "trinity knot"--similar to a trefoil knot, which is the simplest mathematical nontrivial knot (that is, a closed loop). It is shown here as three vesica piscis (L. "bladder of fish")--a.k.a. mandorlas (It. "almond")--that geometrically are formed by the equally overlapping perimeters of three circles. Current evidence places the symbol's origins--presumed to be pagan (specifically Celtic or Germanic) but possibly Christian--in the A.D. 600s.
Image #2: Andrei Rublev's Trinity (A.D. 1411 or 1425-27).