Holy Trinity, fresco by Luca Rossetti da Orta. . .
June 15 is the First Sunday after Pentecost, also known as Trinity Sunday. The readings for June 15 are Genesis 1:1-2:4a, Psalm 8, 2 Corinthians 13:11-13, and Matthew 28:16-20.
The Sundays following Pentecost, until Advent, are numbered from this day. . . In the Church of England, following the pre-Reformation Sarum use, the following Sunday is the “First Sunday after Trinity”, while the Episcopal Church in the United States of America (ECUSA) now follows the Catholic usage, calling it the Second Sunday after Pentecost.
All of which is another way of saying that from now to the First Sunday of Advent – this year, November 30 – the readings in the church calendar are numbered as a given Sunday after Pentecost, up to the 23d and the Last Sunday after Pentecost, November 16 and 23, respectively.
As Wikipedia also noted, “The Christian doctrine of the Trinity . . . defines God as three consubstantial persons, expressions, or hypostases.” Wikipedia added that according to this “central mystery of most Christian faiths, there is only one God in three persons.”
If you’re really interested in further information, see Trinity – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. On the other hand, if you don’t understand the whole concept, don’t worry. Neither did Thomas Jefferson, so you’re in good company.
Jefferson questioned key parts of Christianity including Mary’s virgin birth, Jesus’ resurrection and Jesus’ teachings of being the messiah long before his death in 1826. “As early as 1788, we have a letter where he said he didn’t understand the trinity, and if he didn’t understand the trinity, how could he possibly agree to it?”
A note: Thomas Jefferson was a very smart guy, but he seems to have fallen into the common error of thinking that he could ever really understand everything there is to know about God. See for example Isaiah 55:8-9 (in The Living Bible translation):
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
So Jefferson’s saying he wouldn’t believe anything he couldn’t fully comprehend was a bit like me saying The Force That Created The Universe is no greater than my feeble ability to comprehend “Him” (anthropomorphism), but that’s a subject for another post…
Another thing that’s hard for many people to understand is that the “Creation Story” found at the beginning of the book of Genesis must be taken as literally true, or else you go to hell.
But turning back to the idea of “originalism” – see On “originalism” – it may help to explore what was on Moses’ mind when he wrote this very first book of the Bible. And one thing that he had to keep in mind was that he didn’t want to get burnt at the stake for heresy.
Which brings up the question: Who was Moses writing for? Or the question could be: Who was Moses’ primary audience? The answer: Moses was writing mostly for his fellow Hebrews, but those fellow Hebrews didn’t have the level of educational advantage that he did. (Don’t forget, for the longest time Moses was literally a Prince of Egypt.)
So how would those fellow, primitive, backward Hebrews have reacted to being told things we now take for granted? How would they have reacted to being told, for example:
“You see that big bright round thing in the sky? The thing that disappears when it gets dark, to be replaced by a smaller not-so-bright round thing? Well, it looks like it revolves around us, but really, we live on this other big round thing, which is hurtling though space, and our big round thing actually revolves around that other Big Bright Round Thing In The Sky, not the other way around like we’ve been thinking all these years…”
The point is this: However Moses described the history of the world – for example in Genesis 1:1-2:4, part of the story the Hebrews from “Creation” up to where they were wandering in the wilderness – he had to tell the story using language and concepts that his relatively-pea-brained contemporary audience could understand.
In other words, Moses’ ability to tell the story he wanted was limited to his audience’s ability to comprehend. One other note: There was a guy named Galileo who did tell that “Big Bright Round Thing In The Sky” story almost 3,000 years after Moses, and he was lucky to avoid getting burnt at the stake as a heretic, but we digress…
For more on next Sunday’s readings, see “On the readings for June 15 – Part II,” coming up.
“Jefferson questioned key parts…” See e.g. Controversial Thomas Jefferson book pulled over complaints of … See also Jefferson Bible – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, which said Jefferson’s book titled The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth begins with an account of Jesus’s birth “without references to angels (at that time), genealogy, or prophecy. Miracles, references to the Trinity and the divinity of Jesus, and Jesus’ resurrection are also absent from his collection.”
The “Galileo” image is courtesy of the Wikipedia article, Heresy – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:
Galileo Galilei was brought before the Inquisition for heresy, but abjured his views and was sentenced to house arrest, under which he spent the rest of his life. Galileo was found “vehemently suspect of heresy”, namely of having held the opinions that the Sun lies motionless at the centre of the universe, that the Earth is not at its centre and moves, and that one may hold and defend an opinion as probable after it has been declared contrary to Holy Scripture. He was required to “abjure, curse and detest” those opinions.
So again, imagine how those just-getting-used-to-the-idea-of-fire, desert-cutthroat Hebrews would have reacted if Moses had told that “Big Bright Round Thing In The Sky” story:
A note about timing: Moses was born some 1300 years before Jesus, and Galileo got in trouble for the “Round Thing In The Sky” story about 1600 years after that. See Moses (1393-1273 BCE) – Jewish History – Chabad.org, and the Wikipedia article on Galileo, attached to the article on heresy. (The “angry mob” image is courtesy of