05 June 2011

God the Holy Trinity


The Christian doctrine of the Trinity, one of the most important in mainstream Christian faith, teaches the unity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as three persons (Greek hypostases), in One Divine Being (Greek: Ousia), called the Godhead (from Old English Godhǣd, "God-hood"), the Divine Essence of God.

God exists as three persons but is one God, meaning that God the Son and God the Holy Spirit have exactly the same nature or being as God the Father in every way. Whatever attributes and power God the Father has, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit have as well. "Thus, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are also eternal, omnipresent, omnipotent, infinitely wise, infinitely holy, infinitely loving, omniscient."
Trinitarianism contrasts with heretical Nontrinitarian positions which include Binitarianism (one deity/two persons), Unitarianism (one deity/one person), the Oneness or Modalism belief, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' view of the Godhead as three separate beings who are one in purpose rather than essence.

The English word Trinity is derived from Latin Trinitas, meaning "the number three, a triad". This abstract noun is formed from the adjective trinus (three each, threefold, triple), as the word unitas is the abstract noun formed from unus (one). The corresponding word in Greek is Τριάς, meaning "a set of three" or "the number three".

In 325, the First Council of Nicaea defined the long-believed doctrine of the Trinity as orthodoxy and adopted the Nicene Creed, which described Christ as "God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance (homoousios) with the Father".

Each person is understood as having the same identical essence or nature, not merely similar natures. The being of Christ can be said to have dominated theological discussions and councils of the church through the 7th century, and resulted in the Nicene and Constantinopolitan creeds, the Ephesine Formula of 431 AD, and the Christological statement of the Epistola Dogmatica of Leo I to Flavianus. 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. Since the beginning of the third century the doctrine of the Trinity has been stated as "the one God exists in three Persons and one substance, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit." Trinitarianism, belief in the Trinity, is a mark of Roman Catholicism, Eastern and Oriental Orthodoxy as well as of the "mainstream traditions" arising from the Protestant Reformation, such as Anglicanism, Baptist, Methodism, Lutheranism and Presbyterianism. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church describes the Trinity as "the central dogma of Christian theology".

The Old Testament foreshadows the Trinity, by referring to God's word,[Ps 33:6] his spirit,[Isa 61:1] and Wisdom,[Prov 9:1] as well as narratives such as the appearance of the three men (angels) to Abraham.[Gen 18]

Some Church Fathers believed that a knowledge of the mystery was granted to the prophets and saints of the "Old Dispensation", and that they identified the divine messenger of Genesis 16:7, 21:17, 31:11, Exodus 3:2 and Wisdom of the sapiential books with the Son, and "the spirit of the Lord" with the Holy Spirit. Other Church Fathers, such as Gregory Nazianzen, argued in his Orations that the revelation was gradual:
The Old Testament proclaimed the Father openly, and the Son more obscurely. The New manifested the Son, and suggested the deity of the Spirit. Now the Spirit himself dwells among us, and supplies us with a clearer demonstration of himself. For it was not safe, when the Godhead of the Father was not yet acknowledged, plainly to proclaim the Son; nor when that of the Son was not yet received to burden us further.
Southern Baptist theologian Frank Stagg emphasizes that the New Testament does repeatedly speak of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit to "compel a trinitarian understanding of God."
A few verses directly reference the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit at the same time:
"As soon as Jesus Christ was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and landing on him. And a voice from heaven said, 'This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.'"[Mt 3:16–17] [Mk 1:10–11] [Luke 3:22] [John 1:32]
"The angel answered and said to her, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.'"[Luke 1:35]
"How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!"[Heb 9:14]
"But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God." [Acts 7:55]
This passage contains many complex formulations of the relationship between God, Christ, and Spirit, including "the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead,"[Rom 8:11] "all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God,"[8:14-17] and "the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God."[8:26-27]
Some even reference these as part of a single formula:
"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit"[Mt 28:19]. All extant manuscripts of the Gospel of Matthew unanimously contain the trinitarian baptismal formula without variation at 28:19.
"The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you."[2 Cor. 13:14]
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]
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 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.

There are also biblical supports for the Trinity found in the Synoptic Gospels. The Gospel of Matthew, for example, quotes Jesus as saying "all things have been handed over to me by my Father".[Mt 11:27] This is similar to John, who wrote that Jesus said "All that the Father has is mine".[John 16:15] These verses have been quoted to defend the omnipotence of Christ, having all power, as well as the omniscience of Christ, having all wisdom.

Expressions also in the Pauline epistles attribute divinity to Jesus. They include: "For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him"[Colossians 1:16] and "For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form",[Colossians 2:9] and in Paul the Apostle's claim to have been "sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father".[Galatians 1:1]

In Daniel 7 the prophet records his vision of "one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven", who "was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him" (v. 14). Christians believe that worship is only properly given to God, and that considering other Bible passages this "son of man" can be identified as the second person of the Trinity. Parallels may be drawn between Daniel's vision and Jesus' words to the Jewish high priest that in the future those assembled would see "the son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven."[Mt 26:64-65] Jesus was immediately accused of blasphemy, as at other times when he had identified his unity with the Father.[John 10:33] Christians also believe that John saw the resurrected, gloried Jesus and described him as "One like the Son of Man."[Rev 1:13]

The Trinity was also introduced in the Old Testament book of Isaiah written around 700 years before Jesus, copies of which were preserved from 300 years before Jesus in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Isaiah 9:6 prophesies "For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon his shoulder. And his name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." Thus a son who will be born at a particular point in history who is called "Mighty God". Jesus is the second person in the Trinity, and he is called "Everlasting Father" because of his role as Creator of men and because he is God.

Another biblical demonstration of the deity of Jesus comes from the biblical scholar Granville Sharp who noted the construction of a particular Greek idiom, which is now called Granville Sharp's rule. According to the rule, when two nouns that are personal, singular, and not proper names are connected in a TSKS pattern (The—Substantive—Kai—Substantive, where 'kai' is Greek for 'and') then the two nouns refer to the same person. Passages like Titus 2:13 and 2Peter 1:1 fit this pattern. Therefore, when Paul says:[Titus 2:13] "The great God and savior, Jesus Christ" he is grammatically identifying Jesus Christ as the great God. Proper nouns are not used in this phrase. In his review of over 1,000 years of Greek literature, Christopher Wordsworth confirmed that early church Fathers had this same understanding of the text.

Jesus did know all things, such as "He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, "Do you love me?" and he said to him, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my sheep.""[John 21:17]

As the Arian controversy was dwindling down, the debate moved from the deity of Jesus Christ to the equality of the Holy Spirit with the Father and Son.

Although the main text used in defense of the deity of the Holy Spirit was Matthew 28:19, Cappadocian Fathers such as Basil the Great argued from other verses such as "But Peter said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God."[Acts 5:3-4]

Another passagethe Cappadocian Fathers quoted from was "By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host."[Psalm 33:6] According to their understanding, because "breath" and "spirit" in Hebrew are both "רוּחַ" ("ruach"), Psalm 33:6 is revealing the roles of the Son and Holy Spirit as co-creators. And since, according to them, because the holy God can only create holy beings such as the angels, the Son and Holy Spirit must be God.

Yet another argument from the Cappadocian Fathers to prove that the Holy Spirit is of the same nature as the Father and Son comes from "For who knows a person's thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God."[1Cor. 2:11] They reasoned that this passage proves that the Holy Spirit has the same relationship to God as the spirit within us has to us.

The Cappadocian Fathers also quoted "Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you?"[1Cor. 3:16] and reasoned that it would be blasphemous for an inferior being to take up residence in a temple of God, thus proving that the Holy Spirit is equal with the Father and the Son.

They also combined "the servant does not know what his master is doing"[John 15:15] with 1 Corinthians 2:11 in an attempt to show that the Holy Spirit is not the slave of God, and therefore his equal.

The Holy Spirit is greater than the angels, since the Holy Spirit is the one who grants the foreknowledge for prophesy[1Cor. 12:8-10] so that the angels could announce events to come.

Genesis 18–19 have been shown by Christians as a Trinitarian text. The narrative has the Lord appearing to Abraham, who was visited by three men.[Gen 18:1-2] Then in Genesis 19, "the two angels" visited Lot at Sodom. The interplay between Abraham on the one hand, and the Lord/three men/the two angels on the other was an intriguing text for those who believed in a single God in three persons.

Augustine, held that the three visitors to Abraham were the three persons of the Trinity. He saw no indication that the visitors were unequal. Then in Genesis 19, two of the visitors were addressed by Lot in the singular: "Lot said to them, 'Not so, my lord.'"[Gen 19:18 KJV] Augustine saw that Lot could address them as one because they had a single substance, despite the plurality of persons. Some Christians see indications in the Old Testament of a plurality and unity in God.

Theophanies:
  • Genesis 12:7 and Genesis 18:1—God appeared to Abraham
  • Genesis 26:2 and Genesis 26:24—God appeared to Isaac
  • Genesis 35:1, Genesis 35:9 and Genesis 48:3—God appeared to Jacob
  • Exodus 3:16 and Exodus 4:5—God appeared to Moses
  • Exodus 6:3—God appeared to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob
  • Leviticus 9:4 and Leviticus 6:2—God appeared to Aaron
  • Deuteronomy 31:15—God appeared to Moses and Joshua
  • 1 Samuel 3:21—God appeared to Samuel
  • 1 Kings 3:5, 1 Kings 9:2 and 1 Kings 11:9—God appeared to Solomon
  • 2 Chronicles 1—God appeared to David
  • 2 Chronicles 7:12—God appeared to Solomon
The angel (messenger) of the Lord:
  • Genesis 16:7–14
  • Genesis 22:9–14
  • Exodus 3:2
  • Exodus 23:20,21
  • Numbers 22:21–35
  • Judges 2:1–5
  • Judges 6:11–22
  • Judges 13:3
References in the Deuterocanonical booksIn Wisdom, Sirach, and Baruch, the personifications of wisdom have been seen in the Christian traditions as prefigures for Christ. The most explicit reference to the Trinity is in Wisdom of Solomon:
Who has learned your counsel, unless you have given wisdom and sent your holy spirit from on high? And thus the paths of those on earth were set right, and people were taught what pleases you, and were saved by wisdom
—Wisdom of Solomon 9:17-18
The Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost share the one essence, substance or being. The central and crucial affirmation of Christian faith is that there is one savior, God, and one salvation, manifest in Jesus Christ, to which there is access only because of the Holy Spirit. The God of the Old Testament is still the same as the God of the New. In Christianity, statements about a solitary God are intended to distinguish the Hebraic understanding from the polytheistic view, which see divine power as shared by several beings, beings which can and do disagree and have conflicts with each other.

God exists as three persons, or hypostases, but is one being, that is, has but a single divine nature. Chalcedonians—Roman Catholics, Orthodox Christians, and Protestants—hold that, in addition, the second person of the Trinity—God the Son, Jesus—assumed human nature, so that he has two natures (and hence two wills), and is really and fully both true God and true human.

The members of the Trinity are said to be co-equal and co-eternal, one in essence, nature, power, action, and will. As stated in the Athanasian Creed, the Father is uncreated, the Son is uncreated, and the Holy Spirit is uncreated, and all three are eternal with no beginning. The Roman Catholic Church currently teaches that, in the sense of the Latin verb procedere (which does not have to indicate ultimate origin and is therefore compatible with proceeding through), but not in that of the Greek verb ἐκπορεύεσθαι (which implies ultimate origin), the Spirit "proceeds" from the Father and the Son (Filioque), and the Eastern Orthodox Church still teaches the original belief that the Spirit "proceeds" from the Father alone, has made no statement on the claim of a difference in meaning between the two words, one Greek and one Latin, both of which are translated as "proceeds". There is no dispute on the statement in the Nicene Creed that the Holy Spirit is worshipped together with the Father and the Son.

It has been stated that because three persons exist in God as one unity, "The Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit" are not three different names for different parts of God but one name for God, because the Father can not be divided from the Son or the Holy Spirit from the Son. God has always loved, and there has always existed perfectly harmonious communion between the three persons of the Trinity. One consequence of this teaching is that God could not have created man to have someone to talk to or to love: God "already" enjoyed personal communion; being perfect, he did not create man because of a lack or inadequacy he had.

Another consequence, according to Rev. Fr. Thomas Hopko, an Eastern Orthodox theologian, is that if God were not a Trinity, he could not have loved prior to creating other beings on whom to bestow his love. Thus God says, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them."[Gen 1:26-27] For Trinitarians, emphasis in Genesis 1:26 is on the plurality in the Deity, and in 1:27 on the unity of the divine Essence. A possible interpretation of Genesis 1:26 is that God's relationships in the Trinity are mirrored in man by the ideal relationship between husband and wife, two persons becoming one flesh, as described in Eve's creation later in the next chapter.

A useful explanation of the relationship of the distinct divine persons is called "perichoresis", from Greek going around, envelopment. This concept refers for its basis to John 14–17, where Jesus is instructing the disciples concerning the meaning of his departure. His going to the Father, he says, is for their sake; so that he might come to them when the "other comforter" is given to them. Then, he says, his disciples will dwell in him, as he dwells in the Father, and the Father dwells in him, and the Father will dwell in them. This is so, according to the theory of perichoresis, because the persons of the Trinity "reciprocally contain one another, so that one permanently envelopes and is permanently enveloped by, the other whom he yet envelopes". (Hilary of Poitiers, Concerning the Trinity 3:1).

This co-indwelling may also be helpful in illustrating the Trinitarian conception of salvation. The first doctrinal benefit is that it effectively excludes the idea that God has parts. Trinitarians assert that God is a simple, not an aggregate, being. The second doctrinal benefit is that it harmonizes well with the doctrine that the Christian's union with the Son in his humanity brings him into union with one who contains in himself, in St. Paul's words, "all the fullness of deity" and not a part. (Theosis). Perichoresis provides an intuitive figure of what this might mean. The Son, the eternal Word, is from all eternity the dwelling place of God; he is the "Father's house", just as the Son dwells in the Father and the Spirit; so that, when the Spirit is "given", then it happens as Jesus said, "I will not leave you as orphans; for I will come to you."[John 14:18]

Some forms of human union are considered to be not identical but analogous to the Trinitarian concept, as found for example in Jesus' words about marriage: "For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh."[Mark 10:7–8] According to the words of Jesus, married persons are in some sense no longer two, but joined into one. Therefore, Orthodox theologians also see the marriage relationship as an image, or "icon" of the Trinity, relationships of communion in which, in the words of St. Paul, participants are "members one of another". As with marriage, the unity of the church with Christ is similarly considered in some sense analogous to the unity of the Trinity, following the prayer of Jesus to the Father, for the church, that "they may be one, even as we are one".[John 17:22]

Trinitarianism affirms that the Son is "begotten" (or "generated") of the Father and that the Spirit "proceeds" from the Father, but the Father is "neither begotten nor proceeds". The argument over whether the Spirit proceeds from the Father alone, or from the Father and the Son, was one of the catalysts of the Great Schism, in this case concerning the Western addition of the Filioque clause to the Nicene Creed.

This language is often considered difficult because, if used regarding humans or other created things, it would imply time and change; when used here, no beginning, change in being, or process within time is intended and is excluded. The Son is generated ("born" or "begotten"), and the Spirit proceeds, eternally. Augustine of Hippo explains, "Thy years are one day, and Thy day is not daily, but today; because Thy today yields not to tomorrow, for neither does it follow yesterday. Thy today is eternity; therefore Thou begat the Co-eternal, to whom Thou saidst, 'This day have I begotten Thee."[Ps 2:7]

Because the Son is begotten, not made, the substance of his person is that of the deity. The creation is brought into being through the Son, but the Son himself is not part of it except through his incarnation.

The church fathers used several analogies to express this thought. St. Irenaeus of Lyons was the final major theologian of the 2nd century. He writes "the Father is God, and the Son is God, for whatever is begotten of God is God."

Extending the analogy, it might be said, similarly, that whatever is generated (procreated) of humans is human. Thus, given that humanity is, in the words of the Bible, "created in the image and likeness of God", an analogy can be drawn between the Divine Essence and human nature, between the Divine Persons and human persons. However, given the fall, this analogy is far from perfect, even though, like the Divine Persons, human persons are characterized by being "loci of relationship". For Trinitarian Christians, this analogy is important with regard to the Church, which St. Paul calls "the body of Christ" and whose members are, because they are "members of Christ", also "members one of another".

However, an attempt to explain the mystery to some extent must break down, and has limited usefulness, being designed, not so much to fully explain the Trinity, but to point to the experience of communion with the Triune God within the Church as the Body of Christ. The difference between those who believe in the Trinity and those who do not, is not an issue of understanding the mystery. The difference is primarily one of belief concerning the personal identity of Christ. It is a difference in conception of the salvation connected with Christ that drives all reactions, either favorable or unfavorable, to the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. As it is, the doctrine of the Trinity is directly tied up with Christology.

Eastern Christianity, for its part, correlates ecclesiology and Trinitarian doctrine, and seeks to understand the doctrine of the Trinity via the experience of the Church, which it understands to be "an icon of the Trinity". Therefore, when St. Paul writes concerning Christians that all are "members one of another", Eastern Christians in turn understand this as also applying to the Divine Persons.

The principal disagreement between Western and Eastern Christianity on the Trinity has been the relationship of the Holy Spirit with the other two hypostases. The original credal formulation of the Council of Constantinople was that the Holy Spirit proceeds "from the Father". While this phrase is still used unaltered both in the Eastern Churches, including the Eastern Catholic Churches, and, when the Nicene Creed is recited in Greek, in the Latin Church, it became customary in some parts of the Latin-speaking Church, beginning with the provincial Third Council of Toledo in 589, to add "and the Son" (Latin Filioque).

Although this insertion into the Creed was explicitly vetoed by Pope Leo III, it was finally used in a Papal Mass by Pope Benedict VIII in 1014, thus completing the heresey's spread throughout Western Christianity. The Eastern Orthodox Churches object to it on ecclesiological and theological grounds, holding that "from the Father" means "from the Father alone". Pope Leo III opposed insertion of the phrase into the Nicene Creed.

The 1978 Anglican Lambeth Conference requested that all member Churches of the Anglican Communion should consider omitting the Filioque from the Nicene Creed, and that the Anglican-Orthodox Joint Doctrinal Commission through the Anglican Consultative Council should assist them in presenting the theological issues to their appropriate synodical bodies and should be responsible for any necessary consultation with other Churches of the Western tradition.

None of the member Churches has implemented this request; but the Church of England, while keeping the phrase in the Creed recited in its own services, presents in its Common Worship series of service books a text of the creed without it for use "on suitable ecumenical occasions".

Most Protestant groups that use the creed also include the errant Filioque clause because their pedagogy comes from the Roman Catholic Church.

Direct representations of the Trinity are much rarer in Eastern Orthodox art of any period—reservations about depicting the Father remain fairly strong, as they were in the West until the high Middle Ages. The Second Council of Nicea in 787 confirmed that the depiction of Christ was allowed because he became man; the situation regarding the Father was less clear. The usual Orthodox representation of the Trinity was through the "Old Testament Trinity" of the three angels visiting Abraham—said in the text to be "the Lord"[Genesis 18:1-15]. The subject long remained sensitive, and the Russian Orthodox Church at the Great Synod of Moscow in 1667 finally forbade depictions of the Father in human form. The canon is quoted in full here because it explains the Russian Orthodox theology on the subject:
Chapter 2, §44: It is most absurd and improper to depict in icons the Lord Sabaoth (that is to say, God the Father) with a grey beard and the Only-Begotten Son in His bosom with a dove between them, because no-one has seen the Father according to His Divinity, and the Father has no flesh, nor was the Son born in the flesh from the Father before the ages. And though David the prophet says, "From the womb before the morning star have I begotten Thee"[Psalm 109:3], that birth was not fleshly, but unspeakable and incomprehensible. For Christ Himself says in the holy Gospel, "No man hath seen the Father, save the Son".cf.[John 6:46] And Isaiah the prophet says in his fortieth chapter: "To whom have ye likened the Lord? and with what likeness have ye made a similitude of Him? Has not the artificier of wood made an image, or the goldsmiths, having melted gold, gilt it over, and made it a similitude?"[Isa 40:18-19] In like manner the Apostle Paul says in Acts[Acts 17:29] "Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold or silver or stone, graven by art of man's imagination." And John Damascene says: "But furthermore, who can make a similitude of the invisible, incorporeal, uncircumscribed and undepictable God? It is, then, uttermost insanity and impiety to give a form to the Godhead" (Orthodox Faith, 4:16). In like manner St. Gregory the Dialogist prohibits this. For this reason we should only form an understanding in the mind of Sabaoth, which is the Godhead, and of that birth before the ages of the Only-Begotten-Son from the Father, but we should never, in any wise depict these in icons, for this, indeed, is impossible. And the Holy Spirit is not in essence a dove, but in essence he is God, and "No man hath seen God", as John the Theologian and Evangelist bears witness[John 1:18] and this is so even though, at the Jordan at Christ's holy Baptism the Holy Spirit appeared in the likeness of a dove. For this reason, it is fitting on this occasion only to depict the Holy Spirit in the likeness of a dove. But in any other place those who have intelligence will not depict the Holy Spirit in the likeness of a dove. For on Mount Tabor, He appeared as a cloud and, at another time, in other ways. Furthermore, Sabaoth is the name not only of the Father, but of the Holy Trinity. According to Dionysios the Areopagite, Lord Sabaoth, translated from the Jewish tongue, means "Lord of Hosts". This Lord of Hosts is the Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And although Daniel the prophet says that he beheld the Ancient of Days sitting on a throne, this should not be understood to refer to the Father, but to the Son, Who at His second coming will judge every nation at the dreadful Judgment.
The Coptic Orthodox Church never depicts God the Father in art although he may be identified by an area of brightness within art such as the heavenly glow at the top of some icons of the baptism of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Syrian, Armenian, Indian and British Orthodox Churches appear to follow the same practice.

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