I think the answer depends a lot of what you mean by christianity, what they actually believe, what trinity is, and what avodah zarah is. For the first 3 I can explain as much as I can. For the 4th I want to learn from jews.
I think christians and trinitarian beliefs come in many flavor. Some jews may consider some flavor idolatry. Some don’t. So consider this answer as a question of which one is which.
Trinity itself is hard to understand. One way to describe it is to think of your self as a programmer, a husband, and a father (and an employer, and a business partner, and a politician, and an honest truth seeking guy). So you’re a 3 (or more) distinct being but still just you. Is programmer the same with husband? No. Is father the same with programmer no. But all is you.
I still do not understand why christians pick number 3. Why not just go the way to of the jews having so many different names for the same God. But that’s one way to see it. That view is called Sabellianism. Christians officials consider that heresy. Jews are probably more comfortable with this (do you?) and christians may have claimed sabellianism as heresy to deliberately distance themselves from jews.
It’s interesting that sabellianism, as well as many non trinitarianism used to be majority among christians.
> Tertullian seems to suggest that the majority of believers at that
> time favoured the Sabellian view of the oneness of God. Epiphanius
> (Haeres 62) about 375 notes that the adherents of Sabellius were still
> to be found in great numbers, both in Mesopotamia and at Rome. The
> first general council at Constantinople in 381 in canon VII and the
> third general council at Constantinople in 680 in canon XCV declared
> the baptism of Sabellius to be invalid, which indicates that
> Sabellianism was still extant.
Christian priests that come up with Sabellianism are amateur and hence not right enough, heretic, deserve to die, yada yada. You got the point.
Another way to think of trinity is to think that you’re samurai at day, ninja at night, and who know what else. I think christians also have a latin term for it. [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monarchianism] . That too is heretical because they aren’t popular enough.
I do hope that God don’t really send us to heaven and hell based on this because I am pretty sure the majority of christians (or anyone) do not understand it. In fact, I bet Jesus’ disciples (which are mostly fishermen) and even Jesus himself would be quite confused when we asked these to Him. Yet religious leaders will have strong intensive to declare that you go to heaven or hell based on whether you believe his particular niche of religious doctrine or not.
Many things that christians consider heretic are well, christians too. These are all from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trinity
The being of Christ can be said to have dominated theological discussions and councils of the church until the 7th century, and resulted in the Nicene and Constantinopolitan creeds, the Ephesine Formula of 431, the Christological statement of the Epistola Dogmatica of Leo I to Flavianus, and the condemnation of Monothelism in the Sixth Ecumenical Council (680-681). From these councils, the following christological doctrines were condemned as heresies: Ebionism, Docetism, Basilidianism, Alogism or Artemonism, Patripassianism, Sabellianism, Arianism, Apollinarianism, Nestorianism, Eutychianism, Monophysitism, and Monothelitism.
The origins are from christian bible that.
As opposed to the Synoptic Gospels, the Gospel of John has been seen as aimed at emphasizing Jesus’ divinity, presenting Jesus as the Logos, pre-existent and divine, from its first words, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”[John 1:1] John also portrays Jesus as the creator of the universe, such that “without him was not any thing made that was made.”[John 1:3] Some render John 1:1 as “the Word was a god”, “the word was godlike”, “the word was divine”, denying that the doctrine of the Trinity is supported by the verse.
The Gospel of John ends with Thomas’ apparent confession of faith to Jesus, “My Lord and my God!”[John 20:28] There is no significant tendency among modern scholars to deny that John 1:1 and John 20:28 identify Jesus with God.
Other passages of John’s Gospel interpreted in this sense include, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”,[8:58] “I and the Father are one.”,[10:30] “….the Father is in me and I am in the Father.”,[10:38] and “….he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.”[John 5:18] John is also seen to identify Jesus as the Lord whom Isaiah saw,[John 12:34-45][Isa 6:1-10] while other texts[Heb 1:1-12] are also understood as referring to Jesus as God.
The jewish bible (tanach said:)
13 I saw in the night visions, and, behold, there came with the clouds of heaven one like unto a son of man, and he came even to the Ancient of days, and he was brought near before Him.
14 And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.
The majority of christians that I know believe that Jesus is God and only those that believe that goes to heaven. The rest will be eternally tormented in some lake of fire for got that wrong.
In fact, most christians believe that as the defining line of christianity. Those christians would argue that judaizers, mormon, jehovah witness, budhists, deists, jews and arians as non christians and would all get roasted crispy in boiling high temperature God’s frying pan.
So I have to be careful here. I am a very liberal christian and half agnosis (not to mention chinese). I do not know whether Jesus is God or not. I do not know for sure whether his father is God or not. In fact, to my surprise, not even Jesus’ disciples that met him knew.
This come as a big surprise to me. Look at here for more discussion http://www.gty.org/resources/articles/A335 . So even Jesus’ disciples, that learn directly from him, when asked by Jesus HIMSELF, all give different answers.
I do not exclude the possibility. I suppose, somebody who make the heaven and the earth wouldn’t have problem becoming human once in a while. It’s like a programmer making World of Warcraft and actually play the game and create an avatar for him self.
I asked in christianity forum and got tons of downvote
Here christians say that after Jesus is death and supposedly risen, all the disciples knew (who the player behind the toon). Well, not really
After Jesus is death and risen, the answer to Jesus’ question, “Who do you think I am?” still differs a lot among his followers.
Christianity evolve. What I mean by evolve is that christianity comes in so many different flavors and each flavors have different evolutionary and reproductive advantage. In other word, not only christianity change, christianity changes like living forms evolve.
First we need to examine typical target market of Christianity at the time.
- Jews. Yap. All early Jesus’ followers are jews. Perhaps there is one or 2 samaritan women. All apostles are jewish. Peter, Paul, Jacobus, are all jews.
- Theophobes. These are the greek that fear jewish God but do not want to convert fully to judaism. They love pork and appreciate their foreskin, to be short. Also they don’t like stoning their wife. Yada yada. You got the point.
- The rest… Obviously this 3rd category will outnumber the other 2 because there are simply more people in #3 than in the #1
Here are some of the branch of early christianity. The differences between them are not clear cut.
- Judaizer. http://www.quora.com/Was-Jesus-the-head-of-a-Jewish-sect-and-if-so-what-differentiated-his-beliefs-from-those-of-the-Jews-at-the-time This people believe that all christians should follow all jewish laws. The main difference between these people and Jews are they believe Jesus is the Mesiah. It’s like Rabbi Akiva believing that Bar Kotba is a jewish messiah. It’s like Isaiah believing that king Cyrus is a messiah. In fact, this what confuse me about how important messiah is for jews given that they seem to have plenty of claimants. Messiah means anointed. Anointed means having your head poured over by food. Looks like anyone can claim that title by melting a butter on his own head if we want to be liberal about it.
- Gnosis/gnostics. Most notable are Marcion. These people believe that God of old testament is evil God for commanding, well, what they perceive as evil. You know, genocide, stoning, and stuff are kind of politically incorrect for some people somehow. They also believed that material world is evil and God is guilty of creating this material world. Gnosis is nevertheless significant. Early christian canon are made by Marcion! That shapes a lot of christianity. A lot of christianity revolve around giving up what’s in this world for something in heaven. Marcion is latter declared heretic, but still his influence of christianity is big. We don’t know exactly what Gnosis believed because church actively burn their books and commit genocide against their followers. I guess we shouldn’t condemn any custom till we learn the benefit.
- Arian. Arians believe that Jesus is some form of super creation. Jesus is a creature created or begoted by God or something like that. Jesus is not God, according to them. Jesus is like God. It’s the difference between Homo Ousion (equal to God) or Homoi Ousion (similar to God). Jesus once claimed that he is very old that he’s been around even before Abraham. http://www.columbia.edu/cu/augustine/arch/sbrandt/iam.htm . Maybe He believed in reincarnation?
- Astanasius. Astanasius believe in the trinity we’re all familiar with. Then catholic church pick up more and more pagan tradition into their doctrines. The gods, become saints, etc.
So what happen to those groups.
- Paul is a pharisee jews. In fact, there was a time when Paul got arrested by jews in the temple. Paul quickly noted that half of the Sanhedrin was saducees. Paul simply said that he got arrested because he believed in life after death and the pharisee is on his side. It’s in book of acts. Some said that Jesus himself is a pharisee in a sense that He seems to believe in life after death.
After a while, Christianity spread and tons of theophobes (God fearers) and gentiles are converted.
- Judaizers demand that they too got circumcision. Christianity naturally splits here. Paul and Peter is of the opinion that requiring circumcision would hurt sales and decided against it. Okay, not their exact word. Just go here for more info http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Council_of_Jerusalem
- The judaizers have their own scriptures, written in hebrew and presumably earlier than the greek gospels that become christians’ scriptures. Some said that the gospel of Matthew is written in hebrew and latter translated to greek. That explains why gospel of Matthew often talked about kingdom of heaven while other gospels talk about kingdom of God. Jews have a tradition of avoiding saying God. I asked this in quora.com. http://www.quora.com/Why-did-Matthew-write-kingdom-of-heaven-while-other-gospels-wrote-kingdom-of-God. You can read more about jewish gospels there http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gospel_of_the_Hebrews. Jewish gospels are not popular. Not only jews are few, they tend to get killed a lot. Also some christians church may have actively burn those alternative gospels like Umar burning most different copies of Quran.
- In the beginning, christianity is prosecuted. Calling a jewish rabbi “Son of God” is an affront to the other claimant of that title, namely the emperor of rome. Jews and christians were not enemies at that time. Not exactly on the same team either. Jews are in trouble with roman authority even more and christians want to distance themselves from the jews. It’s more like those supporting same sex marriage want to alienate themselves from those supporting pedophilia or plural marriage I guess.
- Now here is the most important catch. Arian vs Astanasius. Christianity is popular among the poor. Because most humans are poor, christianity is very popular. Soon there were enough christians to topple the empire. It did happen. During the next emperor selection, an emperor wannabe, Constantine, don christian symbols and won. Constantine is friendly toward christians.
Constantine want to unite the empire with a single doctrine. He is a secular ruler. He doesn’t know what christianity is. So he called the most prominent “christian” bishops to discuss the issue in Nicea. In Nicea, christian bishops vote 300something against 2 that Jesus is God.
- This obviously lead to another important question. How in the earth the Arians are so grossly under represented. They aren’t few. Constantine himself is baptized by an Arian. His son is an Arian. There were enough Arians to defeat and conquer rome latter. So I asked this question on quora.com. Well, check this out http://www.quora.com/Why-were-Arians-underrepresented-at-the-First-Council-of-Nicaea Basically, most “christians” do not even think the issue was important. Most Arians live in the western part of roman empire. So they don’t bother coming to Nicea. Also most of them think that difference between homo ousion and homoi ousion is a greek thing. It’s philosophical issue rather than a practical issue. They do not think it’s important. Also see http://www.quora.com/How-was-the-representation-of-bishops-at-the-Council-of-Nicea-determined
- Arian doctrines don’t die at Nicea. After all, there are plenty of arians. After more power struggle that involve killing, exiling, murder, voting and who knows what, trinitarians win. Christians presume that God must have properly guide the killing, exiling, murder, voting and whatever that somehow the right doctrines pop out. It’s another important doctrine in christianity called inerrancy. Not only the scripture is perfect, without a single spelling/grammar error, that somehow all the differing doctrines are transmitted perfectly or something like that.
So christianity today is effectively a very helenized version of judaism that can trace most of it’s doctrine to whatever political stance used to prevail in democratic countries.
I think to be fair to christians, I should also point out that modern judaism is also a very helenized version of ancient judaism. Today, jews practice democracy and monogamy. Ancient jews practice monarchy, polygamy, and stoning. Ancient jews are more like islam I guess.
Also God or not, Jesus is at least a very influential rabbi, far far more influential than Rabam or Rashii, with only 3 years of practice. We got to credit him for that. Christianity is a branch of judaism as much as atheism, agnostic, and even islam, is a branch of christianity.
It makes me wonder that if somehow christianity is succesful in china, will all 1.2 billions of chinese have a right of return to Israel? Well, obviously not. However, that seems to explain the division between one religion to another. Political interests, which is often very understandable, rather than actual differences. Most chinese would think that all of you are the same. Even when catholics and protestants and jews and muslims are killing each other over their differences, I tend to see it as similarity rather than differences.
So again, the answer depends a lot on what you count as “christians.” My answer is more on history of what christians actually believe and secular atheistic explanation of why.
Another interesting aspect is claims by Gnostics that Jesus himself is spirit. That his disciples see footsteps without body, etc. That sometimes they can touch him and sometimes not. All right, that would looks like God to me, if it were true.
Curiously, while there are plenty of historical evidence for Jesus’ followers, there are few for Jesus himself. Peter is till on good terms with jews. James the just is killed by Sanhedrin but the leader of the Sanhedrin is fired because of this http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_the_Just/
Also it also depends on how Avodah Zarah (idolatry) is interpreted. If we see it as Christians worshiping a man as God, then it looks like it’s idolatry. To see it as God could not possibly take a human form seems like an entirely different game. What about if Jesus is really God or one of his say avatars/toons? Perhaps Jesus is like a puppet. God want to interact with us, and mind control some material being like flood, hurricane, or man.
The idea that God is immaterial that christians believe and jews believe even more strongly seems to come from, surprise:
Socrates and Plato held that (God is) the One, the single self-existent nature, the monadic, the real Being, the good: and all this variety of names points immediately to mind. God therefore is mind, a separate species, that is to say what is purely immaterial and unconnected with anything passible.
(Plutarch, quoted in Eusebius, Preparation for the Gospel 14:16, translated by E.H. Gifford (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1903), 812.)
I wonder if there is any jewish commentary that claim that God has no body before Plato? That would be a way to see where the idea of bodiless God truly originated.
I guess that would explain why gnostics, a branch of greek and judaism mixed up how material world is evil, etc. Perhaps even monotheism itself is borrowed from Persian’s Zoroaster. Who knows. I came here to figure that out.
Ancient judaism didn’t ‘t seem to have problem recognizing that God is anthropomorphic. Every single guy that claimed to have seen God claimed that God has a form from Jacob to Ezekiel. Even israelites are said to listen to God’s voice in some mountain. That means at least God has a voice. Either with boomboxes or vocal chord, He must have been able to create vibration in the air recognizable as voice and that requires some control of material world. Doesn’t seems to be that difficult for God to me. Somehow the jews seems to think it’s such a big deal.
It is possible that jews that deliberately distanced themselves from christians for various political reasons. So things that are not necessarily unjewish, like our father in heaven prayer, becomes sin because the christians are doing it. while christians try to move themselves closer to jews. Hence the whole religion keep changing in some form of goose chase pattern.
Avodah zarah means idolatry. I guess it depends a lot on what christians actually believe and what counts as idolatry and whether it is possible that Jesus is indeed God/Son of God or not and in what sense. I am explaining the various beliefs of various christians because I myself is very confused about chirstianity. Perhaps after my explanation, jews can help answer the question? I think I am pretty objective and accurate in my answer. For example, are there claims among jewish commentary that God doesn’t have a body before Plato? Because that seems to be where the idea originates.
Christians’ trinity is a very complex concept that most Christians are not even aware off. Thinking that Jesus is a mere God pretending to be human (like ninja) is heresy. Trinity has a bunch of different branches each calling each other heretics. Looks like both christians and jews borrow from Plato the idea of invisible omnipotent God that we are familiar with. Are there original similar jewish idea before Plato?
Perhaps Jesus is like Sephirot. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sephirot Well I guess I have to ask real christians. I am an agnostic. If Jesus is like Sephirot, is that idolatry? Kaballah also said that Torah, God, and Israel is one. Perhaps it’s in that sense too. http://www.kabbalahmadeeasy.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=19:-israel-the-torah-and-god-are-all-one&catid=13:beginners-course&Itemid=26 is that idolatry too?
There are many branch of trinity each mean slightly differently and we’re supposed to believe the right thing or go to hell. I guess it’s perfect exam. – When a muslim ask me to explain trinity I simply explain that secularly. Different christian sects have different favorite numbers, after rumbles, the winners are the one betting on 3. That sum it all.