Science in Christian Perspective

Letter to the Editor

Reply By Yamauchi
Edwin Yamauchi
Department of History 
Miami University 
Oxford, Ohio 45056

From: JASA 22 (June 1970): 77-78.

The long letter by Mr. L. Coetzee from South Africa is an interesting response, and one that would he worth printing as it reflects the problems which .Jews, Unitarians, and Muslims have experienced with the Trinity.
Others, including theologians who read this journal, may wish to reply in more detail to the points made as this letter. Let me simply make the following comments:

1) To say that "the early Christians (not only heretics) believed that Christ was a created, high angelic person" assumes only that Mr. Coetzee includes in his definition of "Christian" such suborthodox groups as Arians and Ebionites.

2) Subordination of Christ to the Father has been understood by orthodox Christians in the divine economy of the Trinity, and does not mean-as Coetxee implies in his second paragraphthe Arian belief that Jesus was a created being.

3. The polytheistic triads of the Eastern religions, typically father, mother, and son its their plastic
presentations, have nothing in common with the Trinity save the number three. In his third paragraph Coetzee quotes Professor Albright's book From the Stone Age to Christianity to illustrate such a heathen triad. That Albright himself, who is one of the leading authorities on comparative Near Eastern religions, sees no relationship between such heathen triads and the Trinity is quite clear from a careful reading of his text. Later in the volume Albright says: "It should hardly be necessary to add that the trinitarian idea of God has immeasurably enriched the concept of monotheism, with out in the least detracting from its unified character." (p. 394)

4) The Babylonian theology of Marduk which spoke of the other gods as manifestations of Marduk, and the Egyptian theology of flab which did likewise of Ptah were examples of syncretistic thought based on the political dominance of Babylon on the one hand and of Memphis on the other hand. Neither has any real resemblance to the Trinity.

5) The use of heathen symbols does not necessarily mean that the concepts illustrated by such symbols are heathen. Symbols like words belong to the common heritage of mankind. Christians in all ages have used words and symbols previously employed by heathens, and invested them with the higher meanings given by Cod in His revelation. The cross is found in many pagan religions, but only in Christianity does it have the significance of Cod's loving triumph over sin and death through Christ His Son.

6) Unfortunately for Mr. Coetzee's otherwise plausible historical argument as for Mr. Schonfield's elaborate plot, the Christian's conviction in the deity of Jesus and in the Trinity rests on the New Testament itself (Matthew 28:19; II Cor. 13:14; John 15:26; I Peter 1:2) and not on heathen concepts imported into early Christianity.