Trinity, Heathen Notions of
Trinity, Heathen Notions Of.
In examining the various heathen philosophies and mythologies, we find clear evidence of a belief in a certain sort of trinity, and yet something very different from the Trinity of the Bible.
In the Egyptian mythology, the powers of the Supreme Being as the producer, the producing, and the produced were symbolized by deities who were respectively father, mother, and child of each other. Every Egyptian town had its local triad, but the most famous was the great Theban triad of Amen-ra, Maut, and Khousu. Sometimes the king himself, as a god, made the third member of the triad. These combinations of divine properties must not be confounded with the dogma of a trinity either of creator, preserver, and destroyer, as in Hindû mythology, or of Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier of the Christian faith. The Babylonian mythology offers a trinity, each member of the triad having his own wife or consort. At the head of this trinity stands Ann, representing abstract divinity. He appears as an original principle; the primeval chaos, the god of time, and the world- uncreated matter issuing from the fundamental principle of all things. A companion deity with Anu is Hea, god of the sea and of Hades. He is lord of generation and of all human beings; he animated matter and rendered it fertile, and inspired the universe with life. The third member of this triad was Bel (Elu, Enu, Kaptu), the demiurges and ruler of the organized universe. There were also second and third trinities descending from the first, but becoming more and more defined in character, and assuming a decidedly sidereal aspect.
The system of Plato may be thus stated: God first produced the ideal world, i.e. his infinite understanding conceived of the existence of the world, and formed the plan of creation. The real world was then formed after this ideal world as its model; and this was done by uniting the soul of the world with matter, by which the world became an animated, sensitive, rational creature guided, pervaded, and held together by this rational soul. The three principles of Plato were (a) the Supreme God, whom he calls Πατήρ; (b) the divine understanding, which he calls νοῦς, λόγος, σωτήρ, σοφία; and (c) the soul of the world. These views are developed in his Timceus, etc. The Neo-Platonists eagerly embraced these ideas of Plato, and during the 2nd and 3rd centuries seemed to labor to outdo one another in explaining, defending, and more fully developing them. They not only widely differ from Plato, but often disagree among themselves in their mode of thinking and in their phraseology.
While the Jews who resided in Palestine were satisfied with their Pharisao- Rabbinic theology, and looked for their Messiah as a religious reformer, this was not the case with those residing elsewhere, who had been educated under the influence of the Grecian philosophy. These abandoned the expectation of a future Messiah, or regarded his kingdom as entirely of a moral nature. Among them the theory of the λόγος is found as early as the 1st century. The λόγος they regarded as existing before the Creation, and as the instrument through whom God made all things. See Knapp, Christ. Theol. p. 145 sq.; Lenormant, Chald. Magic, ch. 9; Smith, Chald. Account of Genesis; Tholuck, Die speculative Trinitdtslehre der neuern Orientalen (Berlin, 1826,8vo).