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1.1       Background to the Study

1.2       Aims and Objectives of Study

1.3       Significance of Study

1.4       Research Methodology

1.5       Review of Related Literature





2.1       The Development of Christianity

2.2       Christianity Today

2.3       The Concept of Trinity in Christianity





3.1       A Historical Survey of Hinduism

3.2        The Phases of Hinduism

      Early Nature Worship: The four Vedas (Before 100BCE)

      Priestly Hinduism: The Brahmas (1000-800CE)

Philosophic Hinduism The Upanished (800-600CE)

Legalistic Hinduism: The Laws of Manu (250BCE).

Devotional Hinduism: The Bhagavad Gita (Circa ICE)

Popular Hinduism: The Epics and Puranas (ICE – 250CE).

3.3       Hinduism Today

3.4       The Concept of Trinity in Hinduism.

Notes and References




4.1       Similarities between the Trinity in Hinduism and Christianity

4.2       Differences between the Trinity in Hinduism and Christianity.

4.3       An Evaluation

Notes and References



5.0       CONCLUSION

5.1       Summary

5.2       Recommendation

5.3       Contribution to Knowledge

5.4       Conclusion

Notes and References









The identification of the points of similarity or common interest and points of difference or departure occupy the comparative study of religions, themes, objects, traditions, ideas and cultures. Within the mind of comparative religion, comparism, comparative study or comparative analysis is not for value judgement1. Again, this is not done with the heart of placing one religion, over another. Each religion has it own value in the lives of it adherents. Hence, there is ultimate need to respect one another religion. This are called not for compromising of one’s faith. But, to show that there are similarities and differences in the world living religions (African religion, Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Christianity, Islam, and Sikhism). Some of their religions exist in the same territory or region.

The essence of comparative study of religions is to show that there are similarities and differences in world living religion and to foster peaceful co-existence among these religions against claims that religion is a tool for divisiveness in the world. In other words, the points of agreement should establish the fact that we have things in common. Hence, there is no need for religious conflict. All we need to be aware of our differences in order to understand other religions. This will enhance us to tolerate other adherents since we are familiar with their religious tenets. This argument is tenable on the ground that he or she who knows one religion, knows non2. The similarities in these world religious may be due to the close place of origin. For instance, most of these religious originated from the Near East. Does it mean that they adopted each other’s tradition and later developed? This may be true of course. Now, what of the differences that exist among these religious? In all facet of life, including human beings, there is a natural tendency for similarities and differences.

It is against this view that this research work shall study the similarities and differences in the doctrine of trinity in Christianity and Hinduism. This doctrine is more pronounced about the Christian faith that many people do not know of its existence in Hinduism. Trinity is the union of group of three persons; God heads. In Christianity, they are God the father, God the son, and God the Holy Spirit. They are referred to as one, not three. In identification, they are three, but in essence, they are believed to be one. Therefore, it is the unification of the God’s head. They have the same attributes. Mainly, what we know of the other Godheads were supplied by God the son (Jesus) who has once lived as human race sin. This aspect has been part of criticism on the doctrine of trinity in Christianity. Many argued that how possible is it for the most power or all –powerful God (Jesus) to be killed by human that he created. Consequently, many doubt the monotheistic nature of the religion. This made scholars to get involve in the study of Christology; the humanity and divinity of Jesus Christ. We shall discuss this later. The common attributes of these Godheads are Omnipotent, All- powerful, Almighty, All kind, All rightoueous, Omnipresence, Omniscient, All loving, All faithful, Spirit and many other features. The God heads are one and have equal power. None is superior to another, or at the expense of another.

The doctrine of trinity also exist in Hinduism though with differences. This is called Trimurti in Hinduism. The Godheads are Brahma, who is the creator and functions in the area of creating, Vishnu, who is the preserver or conserver of nature everything in the world, and Siva, who is in charge of destruction and death. Siva is the destroyer3. Also, these Godheads are considered equal to one another. Hinduism is a religion with millions of gods and also considered as a monotheistic religion because of the unification of the Godheads in Trimurti4. On this note we shall examine. Comparatively the doctrine of Trinity in Christianity and Hinduism.


1.1       Background to the Study

Majority of the India population are Hindu. Hinduism, as we had listed the world living religions order of how they originated, is the second oldest religion of the world after African religion5. The religion originated back in 2500BC6. The religion developed through its encounters and interactions with other cultures. Presently, Hinduism is the third most popular religion in the world. Also, 13% of the world’s population is Hindu, and 83% of the population of India is Hindu7. Hinduism is a collection of beliefs that is free from absolutism in worship of gods. Here Hindu can worship a god or several gods. How and why did Hinduism become concentrated in India? What form of religion was practiced in the Indus Valley before the Aryans arrived? What is Hinduism?

Hinduism is a different way of understanding life. In Christianity, the world is viewed in a linear form, while Hinduism see life as a settle importance. The world view of the Hindu is Cylic in Nature. This bring belief in reincarnation after death. It is not easy to define the religion because it has no definite the religion because it has no definite creed, priestly hierarchy and governing agency. What we know in Hinduism are the Swamis (Teachers) and guru (spiritual guides)8. Hinduism can be define as:

“The whole complex of beliefs and institutions that have appeared from the time when their ancient (and most sacred) scriptures, the Vedas, were composed until now”9.

This definition is based on the phases of Hinduism. Hinduism passed through different stages of developments. In the same way, Christianity also passed through stages Church till now.

There is a claim that Hinduism has 330 million of gods10. But, it is often believed that the religion is monotheistic, not polytheistic. How possible is this? Christianity has just three, not 330 million, and doubts are cast on the validity of the doctrine of trinity. What will need to know at this level; is that the two religions (Christianity and Hinduism) have this in common. According to parthasarathy “the different gods and goddess of the Hindu pantheon are mere representatives of the powers and functions of the one supreme God in the manifested world”. This speaks of the freedom in worship of any of the gods or goddesses.

The word trinity cannot be found in the Bible. The Bible, which is the scriptural manual of the Christians never mentioned or used the word Trinity to refer to the three Godheads. But, the New Testament mentioned the three Godheads as one:

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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.” (Matthew 28:19).

In the above scripture the ‘me’ refers to the oneness of the combination of the three Godheads ends. If does not necessarily refer to Jesus. Even if the word refer to Jesus alone, Jesus and the other Godheads are one. The doctrine of trinity is also evident in the Pauline Epistle to the Corinthians:

“May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ; and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all: (2 Corinthians 13:14).

It is apparent that the above verse of the Bible shows that Trinity also speak of how God manifested himself at each point of human existence. Christians believed that Jesus brings about is called grace: unmerited favour as against the capital punishment in the Old Testament. It was God’s love that made him to send Jesus to the planet earth (John 3:16). And, God manifest himself in a long relationship or bond through the fellowship of the Holy Spirit it.

Peter also noted the doctrine of trinity in his writing:

“To God’s elect… who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the father, through sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood.” (1 Peter 1.1-2)

These passages of the Bible never mentioned or used the word trinity. What is the origin of the doctrine of trinity in Christianity? What are the essences of the doctrine in the two religious? What are the similarities and differences in the doctrine of trinity in the similarities and differences in the doctrine of trinity in the two religious? It is against this background that this long esay shall do a comparative study of the doctrine of trinity in Hinduism and Christianity.


1.2       Aims and Objectives of Study

The aims and objectives of this study are:

1.      To do historical survey of Christianity and Hinduism.

2.      To examine the present state of the two the religions.

3.      To critically study the doctrine of trinity in the two religions as a way of promoting religious peaceful co-existence and corporation in the world.


1.3       Significance of Study

It is important to show that these religions have similarities. These similarities should for in part of the reasons why we should not be points of conflict or to judge other religion in the attitude of claiming absolute superiority of one’s religion. Also, this research work is germane because it shows that God can be view from various directions or perspectives, but God is still God. He might be called in different forms as we have different gods that represent the Supreme Being in Hinduism. In lucid terms, this work shows the oneness of God, who is viewed by different people of different colour or race in different ways.


1.4       Research Methodology

In any study, the object of study is the object of the study is the data. Here, data speaks of that things a researcher intends to finding of something, but more important to develop the means, methods or ways of retrieving the data to be used for the work. Here, our data for this study are retrieved using the primary and secondary sources involve the use of oral interviews and observations of what pertains to the study. Observation in this sense can be non-participatory; that is the research is not involve actively and physically in the event being observed at a particular time and place, and can be participatory observation, which is the opposite of non-participatory observation. The secondary sources include the use of textbooks, articles, magazines, journals, dictionary, internet and unpublished works.

For this study, two research methods shall be used. The methods are hermeneutical and historical research methods. Hermeneutical methods is a research methods that interprets what a speaker means at each instances. The interpretations will be based on the background, context from which the speaker speaks, and cultural background of the speaker12. Historical research methods is important to this study because it involves historical facts to establish the doctrine of trinity in the two religions. This method will avail is opportunity to get these historical facts about the religious as we shall retrieved them the University of Ilorin library, United Missionary Theological College library and personal books.


1.5       Review of Related Literature

In chronological order of the topic of this work, we shall review related literature under two divisions. The divisions are trinity in Christianity, and trinity in Hinduism.

i.                    Trinity in Christianity

Bruce and Jantz are of the opinion that Jesus is not only the cornerstone of Christianity, but the person of Jesus is also the centerpiece of human history13. He lived 2000 years ago, but his life and teachings are still in existence till date. In population, according to these scholars, Christianity commands the population of 1,955,229 in the world14. This means that Christianity has the highest population in the world followed by Islam with the population of 1,126,325 adherents15. Biblically, the attribute of God are that God is self –existent (Genesis 1:1), God is eternal (Psalm 90:2) God is holy (Isaiah 6:3), God is unchangeable (Malachi 3:6), God is just (Revelation 15:3), God is omniscient (Proverbs 5:21), god is omnipresent (Psalm 139:7-12), God is love (John 3:16), God is personal (Psalm 139:1-4).

To them, trinity does not mean there are three gods who exist together to make up one God16. God is one, but within that unity are three eternal and coequal persons (God the father, God the son, God the Holy Spirit). These persons share the same essence and substance, but each has a distinct existence God is one, but often manifest himself in divine ways:

“In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets but in these last days he has spoken to us by a son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He reflects, the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his word of power…….” (Hebrew 1:1-3).

The son is not an angel, but God himself who shown humans how he loves us.

According to Tiwari, the origin of Christianity is embedded in the life and teachings of Jesus who came to reform the Jews religion (Judaism)17. Jesus act of reformation was not to form another religion. But, Fatokun noted that though he did not have the intention, but it had been in the master plan of Jesus that his followers will later metamorphosed into a Church based on his words in Matthew 16:1818.

“And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it.”

However, Jesus was speaking more than the literacy level. Jesus did not speak of building a Kuriakon (a house of worship). He was talking of Ekklesra (a called out people of God)19. These people are liberated from sin to holy living. In other words they can be called ‘a redeemed community’. But, since we have Churches, it may not wrong to accept the opinion of Fatokun.

In consequence of the act of Jesus reforming Judaism, Fatokun described the Christian Church as the off-shot of Judaism20. Tiwari noted further that what exist presently in Christianity is not only the handwork of Jesus, but there are host of other saints, mystics and thinkers who have added much to the religion21. Notable among them is St. Paul he states that:

According to many it is Paul, and not Jesus, who should be regarded as the real founder of Christianity. Although Christianity, without doubt, originated in the teachings of Jesus, it took definite shape as a religion at the hands of St. Paul. St. Paul not only propagated the teachings of Jesus with full sense of devotion and honesty, but also added important ideas from his own side. And thus Christianity of Jesus teachings combined with Paul’s22.

The spreading of the gospel of Jesus by Paul is not enough to only missionary who God used. He was called by Jesus. What are we to talk about Peter who was the first leader of the Church at Jerusalem? What of James who later became the leader of the Church at Jerusalem. According to Ogutu, the role of Christianity a universal religion without any form of discrimination23. He also affirmed that Christianity was a renewal movements in Judaism which existed in Syria and Palestine between AD30 and AD7024. Ogutu25 and Fatokun26 are in agreement that the agents of the spread of Christianity are the travelling apostles, prophets, elders and disciples who moved from one locality to another to preach the gospel of Jesus.

Notwithstanding, the missionary journeys of Paul speaks volumes of his great impact to the spread of Christianity. He went on three missionary journey. His first missionary journey start from AD45-49 at Seleucia, Salma, Paphos, Perga, Leonium, Derbe, back to Perga, Selaucia and Antioch. The second journey started in AD50-53 from Tarsus, Derbe, Iconium, Troas, Philipppi, Thessalonica, Berea, Athens, Corinth, Ephesus, Jerusalem and back at Antioch (Acts 15:36-18:22). The third journey was a revisits to places he had visited before27 Rhodes ascribed the wide spread of the religion to the fulfillment of Act 1:828.

“But you shall receive power when Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth”.

The fulfillment came on the day of Pentecost when the disciples were empowered by the Holy Spirit.

Martin is of the opinion that Christianity begun after the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus29. This view tallies with other scholars views. Hill also stressed the importance of the enormous success of Paul’s missionary activities to the wide spread of Christianity. This has made the religion a world-wide religion. Pirouet cited that about a quarter of the world’s population are Christians31. The early apostles evangelized with much zeal since they believed that the second coming of Jesus as he promised is closed. Hence, the gospel needs reach everywhere in the world. The gospel reached even Nigeria through the opinion that Christianity begun after the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus29. This view tallies with other scholars views. Hill also stressed the importance of the enormous success of Paul’s missionary activities to the wide spread of Christianity. This has made the religion a world-wide religion. Pirouette cited that about a quarter of the world’s population are christians31. The early apostles evangelized with much zeal since they believed that the second coming of Jesus as he promised is closed. Hence, the gospel needs reach everywhere in the world. The gospel needs to reach everywhere in the world. The gospel reached even Nigeria through the Roman Catholic Mission, and protestant missionary bodies like the Anglican Mission called Church Missionary Society (CMS), Baptist Mission, Methodologist Mission and other missionary bodies.

Ariri in line with the Christian teachers declared that the doctrine of trinity is a mystery beyond human comprehension32. But, if is in human will understand everything. This holds in this age of science and technology. John Calvin asserted that unless we think of the unity of God as Trinitarian we have no true knowledge of God at all33. This is because the doctrine of trinity is a revealed doctrine in Christianity. T. St. Thomas Aquinas, it is a doctrine that can only be made known to human by divine. Revelation34. Calvin refers to this revelation as biblical revelation. What we know as the doctrine, not the name is revealed to us through the bible. It can be consider as a matter of revelation and as a matter of philosophy. This revelation and reason or theology and philosophy. We shall build our study more on the revelation aspect of trinity than philosophy. It is important to know that the two above scholars differ in their views of the relationship between revelation and reason. St. Thomas acknowledged the power of human reason apart from revelation to discover truth in the field of natural knowledge and regarded the Church as the authoritative interpreter of the Bible, while Calvin rejected both positions35.

But, they were agreed in hold that the divine revelation, acceptance of which by faith was necessary to salvation was given in the form of propositions contained in the Bible36. This means that the Bible is the standard for all doctrines in Christianity. Also, any doctrine not from the Bible is out of Christianity. Billy Graham affirmed this view that God in his word has revealed all we should know37. This connotes that God have revealed himself to human race through his word. He further noted that to explain and illustrate the trinity is one of the most difficult assignments to a Christian38. It is a difficult assignment because it is a mystery accepted as a revelation of God. He narrated the conversations of Dr Dand Mckenna on this:

Dr David Mckenna once told me that he was asked by his small son, Doug, “is God the father God?” He answered, “Yes”. Is Jesus Christ God?” “Yes”. Is the Holy Spirit God? “Yes”. Then how can Jesus be his own father?” …………… Listen, son”, he replied, under the hood is one battery. Yet I can use if to turn on the lights, below the horn, and start the car”. He said, “How this happens is a mystery but it happens!”39.

One may suggest from above that there are many mysterious in the world. But, the mystery of trinity is a divine mystery. Being a mystery does not mean it can be known. To know this mystery is the essence of the Bible. But, this may not satisfy human visual sense of reasoning: seeing is believing. God already knew that difficulty and controversy may arise on this matter. Hence, he made decrees. Arthur Pink defined the decrees of God as this purpose or determination with respect to future things39. The future was settled before hand by God.

According to Darrell Bock in his account of the life of Jesus, he  asserted that Jesus was a human being, a Jew in Galilee with a name and a family, he was like everyone else, but was also different than anyone who ever  lived on earth before40. This talks of the humanity and dimness of Jesus. He once lived like human being and he also had his divine nature. The juxtaposition of these two is hard to the point that it took the Church five centuries of active debate to agree on some sort of epistemological balance between “just like everyone else” (human nature of Jesus) and “something different” (divine nature of God)41. The divine nature speaks of his classification is the second person of the trinity. In this direction, the statement of Henry and Richard that God works according to his nature rise more suspiciousness to this argument42. Is there any human nature in God, since he works according to his nature? The act of manifesting in human nature in God, since he works according to his nature? The act of manifesting in human flesh to show his love and retaining his divineness is a proof that his nature is divine, but only manifested in human form for the purpose of salvation of humans.

Robert Bowman in reaction to the belief of the Jehovah Witnesses on trinity cited the Athanasia creed:

And yet they are not three Gods, but one God………. So we are forbidden by the Catholic (universal) faith to say, there are three Gods or three Lords. The God worshipped by Trinitarians is the one and only God; they recognize no other gods at all. Jesus is not another god alongside God; he is God, together with the father and the Holy Spirit43.

But, the Jehovah Witnesses claimed that the trinity doctrine is false, that Almighty God stands alone as a separate eternal, and all-powerful being. However if it is contradictory for the Jehovah Witnesses to believe that in addition to the “only true God” (John 17:3), and besides the many false gods, there are many creatures who are rightly honoured as “gods” under Jehovah God44. Then, who are these gods?

David well noted that the gospels, the other worldly dimension in Jesus, that which is transcendent and supernatural, is often concealed; in the epistles, it is the human figure which recedes and the other-worldly dimensions which is magnified and explored45. The gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) stressed more on the human nature of Jesus, while the epistles of Paul stressed the divine nature of Jesus, who is the second person in the trinity. The epistles speaks of Jesus of Being  a spirit, not a bare spiritual substance, but an understanding, willing spirit, holy, wise, good and just46, he possesses the attributes of God the father and God the Holy Spirit. Jurgen Moltmann advanced that the incarnation of the son of God was made necessary by man’s sin; it was necessary for his reconciliation47. The manifestation of God in this sense, was as a result of human disobedient which made humans to be slave to sin. God intended the incarnation of the Son of God from eternity. It is in God’s intention to reveal himself in this way.

Swindoll and Zuck48 declared that the first revelation of the apostle John (John 1:1) shows the eternal attribute of Jesus:

“In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God and the word was God” (John 1:1).

This statement is a reminder of the two first word in Genesis 1:1: “in the beginning……….”. This is why Lewis Sperrry Chater refers to the book of John as the theological beginning of the New Testament49. The statement: “The word was God” speak of the equality of Jesus with God the father and God the Holy Spirit.


ii.                  Trinity in Hinduism

Hinduism is often refer to as Sanatana Dharma by the adherents (Hindus) of the religion. Sanatana Dharma means eternal law or order. The name of the religion is viewed as a loose term for a host of religion and sects (Sampradayas) that have developed and flourished over many years under the influence of the complex ancient Hindu mythology50. Alamu recorded that there are 330millions gods in Hinduism51. These different gods and goddesses are representatives and vicegerents of the powers and functions of the supreme God. His definition of Hinduism consists of the beliefs and teachings of the religion:

A complex body of social, cultural and religious beliefs and practices evolved and largely confined to the Indian sub-continent and marked by a caste system, an outlook tending to view all forms and theories of aspects of one eternal being and truth, a belief in Alimsa , Karma, Dharma, Samsara, and Moksha, and the practice of the way of works, the way of knowledge; or the way of devotion as a means of release from the rounds of births and rebirth51”.

The caste system is the social stratification in India into which the people are grouped. There is the Braham caste- the priestly and highest level of the caste system, Kshatriya- the professional, governing and warrior class and the second level of the caste system, Hariyan member of the untouchable caste; means people of God, Sudra-labourer, the lowest of the four main castes, Vaisyans- the artisans and peasants, people of the mercantile status52. Karma is the principle that every action has its positive or negative consequences for the next life of the transfrigrated soul. The term ahimsa means non-violence; not hurting or killing anything. Moksha is the release from the cycle of rebirth; the end of soul’s journey53. This is also known as Nirvana which is the union of the individual with the supreme entity (Brahman).

In the caste system, each group maintains its membership of it caste. There is no trans-movement from one caste to another. This aspect is attached to Karma of the person on earth. The trinity in Hinduism is a consequence of the fact that the Hindus have certain favourite gods that have become the local point. Various sects within Hinduism. Brahma the creator, Vishnu the preserver, and Siva the destroyer and with each at least one wife or consort, are included in the trinity or the triad of gods54. They are considered equal, but people still have favourite among these three.

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